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Title: Tokyo to Tijuana: Gabriele Departing America

Author: Steven Sills

Release Date: June 25, 2004  [eBook #12733]

Language: English

Character set encoding: Latin1


Copyright (C) 2004 by Steven Sills.

            Tokyo To Tijuana:  Gabriele Departing America
                           By Steven Sills

                         Book One: Sang Huin

    "It is probable, then, that if a man should arrive in our city, so
     clever as to be able to assume any character and imitate any
     object, and should propose to make a public display of his
     talents and his productions, we shall pay him reverence as a
     sacred, admirable, and charming personage, but we shall tell him
     that in our state there is no one like him, and that our law
     excludes such characters, and we shall send him away to another
     city after pouring perfumed oil upon his head and crowning him
     with woolen fillets; but for ourselves, we shall employ, for the
     sake of our real good, that more austere and less fascinating
     poet and legend-writer, who will imitate for us the style of the
     virtuous man."  Plato (Republic)

Chapter One

At Toksugum Palace in Chongno of Seoul Sang Huin (known by his
friends in the states as Shawn) felt an empathy as deep as the gods; and
the reconstructed walls of ancient buildings that he could see into and
imagine long deceased emperors in coronation ceremonies or reading their
mandates became irrelevant. Yang Lin, parting from their movement toward
the steps that led toward the Royal Museum, began to walk to a distant
place where a woman in a western wedding dress stood at a pond posing
for a picture with her groom. Near earlier buildings Sang Huin had
noticed him looking at them questioningly. He had seen a sad and
innocent yearning in Yang Lin as if, after a long search, that creature
had found his alter ego in the woman and would not let it go.

After five minutes of waiting alone, sitting on those steps and
letting a cigarette dangle limp in a frown, Sang Huin realized that this
new friend of his was not just straying off briefly, so he gradually
went over there in a circuitous and jaunty stroll as if other things had
gained his attention and only by accident was he moving there. Yang Lin
told Sang Huin that he longed for her: longed for himself within her
beautiful clothes, within her commitment, and within her sex. He had
been so sincere. Sang Huin felt a worse form of compassion for him.  It
was sorrow, the enlightening, sweet venom, and it sank into him. It was
deep empathy. It was God. It was definitely something that was not
wanted. It stayed with him on the bus.

On a ride from the Nambu Bus Terminal to Chongju, Sang Huin's sleep
was spastic like a nervous twitch that would every now and then startle
him into wakefulness and he would wonder where he was: Muguk, Chongju,
Seoul, or "Miguk." Sometimes at the primary school in Muguk he would
ask, "Where are you from?"  Then once, in a coaching effort for the
pitch of a complete sentence, he had made the mistake of "Miguk...Miguk"
("America...America") and the class was in an uproar. He thought of this
in one of his startled awakenings. He looked from the window to flat
patches of skimpy forest that most Koreans thought of as so beautiful.
The way was straight, south and barren and made him almost yearn for the
tortuous roads that appeared near Umsong to be rid of scenery so bland.
Although the bus traveled down the highway as a solid, jitterless mass,
he jittered into more drowsiness.  The contents of his head shook and
his mother's voice cried out to him like locusts from the branches of
trees.  There was a hot sticky childish oozing within him. Within dreams
his fortitude was like marshmallows when pulled off of sticks after
roasting in a bonfire.  He heard voices of he and his sister counting 7
o'clock, 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock rock. 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock, twelve
o'clock rock - Ghosts won't find me.  Ready or not we'll find you.

Then there were those macabre photographs, at the trial in Houston,
of his grown sister's skeleton.  The police had looked for his sister's
body in the park but obviously not thoroughly in the ravine. In one year
they had only searched that park once and in the meantime her body had
decomposed. He dreamed of those photographs of skeletal remains and the
other photographs of more than a few bones that had gone off from the
rest.  They were marred too but by the fangs of dogs or other beasts
dragging them around before dumping them away from the rest of the
remains. He dreamt of these photographs exactly as they appeared from
the slide projector and in that sequence as one of those most godless
days of that long trial when one's whole body trembled in continuum
through bits of the hours with stolid, cadaverous expressions throughout
the ordeal. He assumed his parents had also behaved the same.  Before
the real confirmation of her death, all three had been functioning with
such dead but hopeful words and perfunctory gestures which were then
ripped out of them as the program, memory, and energy cells can be
pulled out of robots and soon they were thrust in their own personal
black abyss with none of the three able to see outside of blackness and
pain as much as they might have wanted to offer solace to each other.

Who could offer solace when the conclusion of life as an evil and
godless place had solidified into consciousness like Death etching her
name in wet cement? Back then, it had been obvious that the trial, a
pantomime of the mute for justice, could never be allocated to the dead
under the best circumstances, and this particular trial was going
nowhere.  The conclusiveness of the evidence and motive had been defaced
with time that had entirely decomposed her form. There had been
theories.  Plenty of circumstantial evidence had been presented.  Her
employer had done it to her as conclusively as a feeling could testify.
Then and now there was plenty of indication that she had been pregnant
with his child. Twenty years ago Sang Huin (Shawn then) had swung a golf
club into her eye and the blood had splattered everywhere.  On that day,
as a boy, he had thought nothing could happen worse than that; but back
then there was blood and back then there was composition.   He woke up
and once again knew that even in sleep there wasn't always repose.
Sometimes, without finding a way of sealing memories in tidy body bags,
one's inner voice was as active in sleep.  He said to himself that he
shouldn't be surprised by such restlessness when life's conundrums were
so horrific.  The passage of a few years, and the passage through a
thousand times of falling asleep could not even restore one's
equilibrium in something so horrific.  He shook off his sleep like a dog
its wetness.  He tried to think of Yang Lin whom he had left: that mild
voice so slow and deliberate in its intensity, the morbid and thoughtful
eyes like an ocean containing its ecosystem, the muscular young body
that had an orange hue like a Chinamen who had sucked up too much sun.

After the revelation he had listened to him repeatedly talk about
wishing that he had been born a woman; and except for once of saying,
"Well...I understand, but" (and stopping not knowing what to throw in as
the "but"), he had been silent with eyes of empathy. It was painful to
see a perspective; and Sang Huin broke out of his skin like a reluctant
and tortured snake but accepting the inevitability. He just stared at
the fountain for many uncomfortable minutes hoping that the mouth of the
fountain could articulate a statement that would solve the situation as
well as ease his discomfort.

At the fountain, in silence, he had thought of rigid Texan horses
and the lazy meditative cows of his home state in warm fields at mid-
afternoon--creatures of the gods with no sense of the vile
practicalities behind their domesticated state. During his times of
stress long ago they had often seemed to Sang Huin as so aesthetic that
one could wish to slip within them for an hour or a bit of the day; and
surely after having done it one might instantaneously wish for the
freedom of whatever was beyond the fence. Maybe, he had thought to
himself, something like this was how Yang Lin felt.

He had suddenly blurted out, "You commented that the pigeons and
the fountain in the pond are beautiful. Maybe they are." He had
hesitated feebly. The coarse words and tone had surprised both of them.
"I hear that doctors can now make a man half pigeon if he dares to have
a mixture of pubic hairs and pubic feathers; or if you prefer a
beautiful fountain-surgery a continual waterfall can come from your
ass." Sang Huin had not known where the words came from. His gentle
imagination had rarely formed such an aggressive flare of thoughts and
yet he had felt that he could not let this stranger--this recent buddy--
this someone he had slept with--save up money on the assumption that he
could be made into a beautiful woman. Twenty years from now he did not
want him to be made into a hybrid mess from a lifetime of painful
surgeries... hormonal confusion...mutilations.

But had he not mutilated four months earlier? A video "pang" girl
[the clerk at the video room where he had watched a movie with his
friend, Yang Kwam] tracked down the friend's license number, and then
the friend's telephone number, and began to inundate him with a flood of
messages. It was quite flattering and Sang Huin finally returned the
calls. He was curious. At that time he wanted a girlfriend. From an
erection, a yearning, an ejaculation, and more than he wished, knowledge
of his own virility by the conception, he proved the very essence of
manhood. She aborted at his request but nature aborted and mutilated:
still-death, genetic defects, and miscarriages. Human beings were rifted
apart from each other by circumstances of separation and death despite
love. The life of a being, itself, was nothing but different
transparencies miscellaneously tossed onto an overhead projector. No, he
thought, maybe that was just his own life. The transparencies of most
humans were in order--the last of which would be old age and decay but
what was written on them was meaningless. His transparency recently had
been to prove his manhood by having sex with a woman and it had all gone

Sang Huin sighed. He took off his shoes in the bus. He stroked his
feet, in short white sports socks, across the vinyl of the back of the
chair before him as if he were giving a massage to the person seated
there. He needed sex. He needed to lose himself in a pleasure that would
reduce his headache and release him from worries even if it was an
illogical frenzy far removed from reality and only lasted for a few

He tried to rest comfortably in his seat, absorbing himself in Time
and Newsweek. Then someone yelped at him in Korean, pushing him out of
his sympathies toward the bondage of the Afghan population under the
theocracy of the Taleban and the tattered infrastructure of the country.
There was no way to catch even a word or two of it and this balding and
middle aged man gave Sang Huin a look as if he had wasted his time
talking to the world's biggest dummy. Sang Huin gave his typical defense
of "Miguk sarem" ("American") which would bring on a confused and
critical look--in this case, it was a closer examination of Sang Huin
and a slanting of the man's face as if he were ready to give Sang Huin a
big fat kiss. Sang Huin picked up his book bag on the spare seat near
the window and sat there.

It was complicated, in a sense. If he had been less temerarious
perhaps to not have the support system of this whole chain--family,
city, state, nation, and racial identification-- might have posed a
problem. To have lived all but the first few years in America, and so
existing as a Korean only by birth and race definitely made him American
in every way but a legal one. Most persons under such a scenario would
have clung to the country that had made up nearly all of his experience.
At least that was what he told himself. Effrontery and cowardice were
two sides of the same coin. He loved his mother and she was alone on the
American continent as he was in Asia. They were indeed alone in the

Even though he cared about family (what was left of it with both
his father and sister now dead) it did not deter him from leaving
America. To be on a traveler's visa with his own Korean passport did,
however, seem to be a bit strange but he could not think of a situation
in life that was not confusing. Relationships were confusing although he
had never possessed one for very long.  When he had the ineluctable
sympathy for another person, it deflated all the romance.  He didn't
mind that so much.  To embark on a deep friendship with strong personal
commitment and devoid of the bouts of infatuation and frenzy like
seasickness seemed the right course; but all partners of the past seemed
to him to have wanted only to cast a romantic aura around him as if
scared to see the real person inside, and scared to look at beings that
were also banal and in continual suffering. Reflexively jumping into
pleasure like a lifebuoy, as a human did, what could one expect?  One
thing was sure: he had experienced a deep pain that his fellow humans
wouldn't even give the briefest of stares if they could avoid it.
Besides, no one wanted his enlightenment that the world was a bad place
when each was trying as best as he could to find an entrance into
Disneyland to which there where no security guards to force a departure.

He searched though his billfold for a calling card. He went to the
front of this high-tech bus and made a call.


"Yoboseyo. Yang Lin bakwa chuseyo."


"Yang Lin or Antonio. Ku nun manhi irum ul cajigo isumnita.
I sarem i wanhamnita." He threw in both names that the little guy went
by and the telephone clicked off.

He called again.


"Yoboseyo. Yang--"

"What do you want with him?"

"I'd like to talk with your son. I am an acquaintance of his. He
helped me to get to Toksugum Palace. I want to thank him. I'd like to
talk to him again."   Yang Lin had told him that his father suspected
all male callers and that Sang Huin would have to give a defense of his
acquaintanceship but Sang Huin felt awkward in his misrepresentation.
Here he was playing with a man's reality concerning his son. He did not
feel good about himself.

"Well, he isn't here. He's never here!"

The telephone clicked off. Sang Huin felt hurt. He felt a morbid
clarity behind how people always left his life. He thought about what he
"knew" of this Chinese friend, Yang Lin, if he knew anything at all: he
was adopted and lived in America; that those parents died-- his mother
first and then the father in a drunk driving accident; that he was
readopted by Korean parents; that his father despised him and suspected
his son was gay; and that Yang Lin felt that his English level was the
same as his Korean.  Abstract ideas must not have existed in his head at
all. In short, he "knew " very little and the scanty but pathetic
information he received might, for what he knew, have been nothing but a
mendacity. Sang Huin had a great empathy; but now another friendship had
just bit the dust.

Had it been a month ago that Sung Ki had left him. Sung Ki: even now
the name sounded musical.  After the video pang girl's attempt at
marital entrapment, this neighbor boy had been most alluring in their
nightly rendezvous of two months. The sister who fed him rice and Korean
pizza and the father who wanted to introduce him to his native country
by teaching him the sounds of Korean letters were glad to get the
youngest child an English teacher.  Little did they know of the
pleasurable respites from pain Sang Huin was getting in the back
bedroom. Homosexuality was so taboo there that nobody believed in its
existence.  In that respect, free of discrimination, one was free to be
gay in Korea. Then the18 year-old boy was told to meet the masculine and
the vicious just as his country dictated. Right after getting his letter
from the military, Sung Ki laid out Sang Huin's blanket in a different
room. He talked of needing a girlfriend. It hurt; but, Sang Huin
rationalized it was what Sung Ki needed so why shouldn't he talk about
it?  Superiors in the military often beat a man if they felt that he
didn't have a girlfriend evidenced when no letters and photographs were
forthcoming. Then one day he was gone and soon thereafter Sang Huin lost
the address book and key chain from the souvenir shop at the history
museum Sung Ki had given to him. He lost both by leaving them in the
locker at the mokotang (bathhouse ). "We lose our friends," thought Sang
Huin, "and then we lose the things that our friends give to us." It felt
less harsh to make the idea applicable for all mankind.

There had been no real reason for him to go to Seoul this time.
There were no private lessons there. His reactions toward Umsong also
did not have much of a rationale. Occasionally, even when there were no
private lessons in that area he sometimes got up around 4 a.m
nonetheless; took an hour long bus ride to that small town he had once
lived in; walked near bowing rice and corn; crossed the bridge around a
thin circular lake at a small park; and stared at the Korean moon bolted
tightly against the Korean sky. He wanted for the night to capture him
somehow--for a drunk motorcyclist or a lazy trucker to whisk a wild
adventure and physical intimacies upon him and yet, in full wistful
innocence, he equally wanted what he would always go there for: to hear
nothing but birds and a whisk of wind in the tranquility of that sleepy
town in one of its most tranquil hours. Nothing of the former ever
happened and he would always come from the impulse to a feeling of loss.
His impetus to go to Seoul this week had come from a dominant feeling of
disconnection experienced by one who knew the extreme violence of the
world, who knew the madness of hope for anyone, and felt being buried
alive in that one perspective that the world was an evil place-a
perspective that was not ethereal but solid as a coffin even if it did
spill over into other things.  A further disconnection of any
significance would cause such an individual to let a numbness and
deadening of the concept of self to take place. The day before his
fleeing to Seoul, his platonic friendship with Kim Yang Kwam had gone
awry and he found himself floundering in suffocating despair as that
time years earlier at the trial. Yang Kwam was asleep with his hand in
his underwear when Sang Huin awakened. Sang Huin touched him. It was the
end of the closest Korean friendship that had been his life support in
the six months he resided in this foreign country, South Korea, which
was his birth home and the source of his nationality.

Now it was Kim Yang Kwam he kept thinking about in the bus. Sang
Huin was labeled as dirty a few nights ago: the way he walked on the
floor with his shoes instead of taking them off at the door; the half
open window that allowed any insect an easy passage; the fact that he
didn't have any rubbing alcohol to cleanse the mosquito bites that his
friend gained while sleeping in Sang Huin's room; the fattening mess of
pancakes with half burnt ridges in place of rice which Sang Huin
prepared for him despite the criticism; and then came questions about
the nature of his relationship with Sung Ki.

Glancing out of the window, he pulled out a pint of "ooyoo" (milk)
from his sack. His throat was not dry or hurting but for some reason he
felt the need to caress it with what he drank as well as with his
fingertips. He drank his milk, attempted memorizing a few words of
Korean, and then went back to sleep. He had a strange dream of some
inconsequential happening in Seoul. The dream was not much different
than reality. In the dream the subway (Orange Line, number three)
stopped and he noticed a young blind man with a dog getting into one of
the cars. Sang Huin quickly moved toward that door. Then he found
himself walking through one car after another since the blind man and
the dog passed through the inside doors. He woke up and thought of the
dream in the context of himself. He was drawn to beauty and carnal
activity but also to those captive in some imperfection for within them
sensitivity, existential and knowledgeable of suffering, would be
complete. He yearned for the deep intelligence that knew such things.
His imagination swelled with the thought of this individual just as it
had when he actually encountered him in Soul. Sang Huin was always
traveling--especially when he was in the States. He was discontent and
was seeing himself falling further and further away from the normal
path.  He had nothing but a college degree, no specialty, no ambition
for money, he couldn't really think of a field or discipline for
himself, family was a deep life altering wound that made the thought of
gravitating himself around a wife and children unbearable, and even his
hobby of playing a cello was as a musical dilettante. He looked out of
the window and smoothed out his hair. The bus was becoming full now.
Still, no one was standing.

Maybe, he thought, he should have been proud at the restaurant.
Instead, when Yang Kwam said that he never wanted to see him again Sang
Huin said, "I understand," but was thinking "Well, then why are we
eating together?" Yang Kwam's eyes were stern. Indeed, it was the end.
He felt stunned at that table: to lead a person to a restaurant so that
he could not talk to him and then at the inquiry on if he was upset--
Oh, what did it matter? Sang Huin's head hurt thinking about it. He put
his hand on his forehead and looked out of the window. Sang Huin said
nothing to the statement of "Don't ever call me." They both ate sparsely
in thorough silence, Yang Kwam paid the bill, and then he was gone. Sang
Huin's instinct was to follow his former friend to the ends of the earth
on the public bus system and to harass him in the bus by making him feel
miserable for his declaration that he was a dirty person. No, he told
himself, he had handled the situation the best that he could. After
sitting at the table for a while, he had withdrawn to his home
passively. On what seemed like an eternal trip, cramped on a seat in the
bus, disconnection was making his mind jittery, soft, and rolling like a
ball away from him.  He tried sleeping but his mind kept trying to
imagine what really took place between his sister and her boss at the
park if indeed it had been really him at all.  The jury years ago had
not thought of the evidence as being conclusive.  In sentencing a man to
a life of imprisonment it couldn't be done on a feeling.

He felt lost and loose. He still felt stunned. He remembered that he
had only touched him by barely stroking his hair and his hand and then
touching his underwear. It only lasted a minute and then he turned on
his side away from him and his own instincts.  It was an insignificant
minute in one's life and he could not figure out why it became such
evidence of the accuser that he was dirty-the charge of homosexuality
not being directly stated. He asked himself why, even now, he was
staring at moving forest and long stretches of road with this yearning
for love.  He opened another pint of milk. He sipped and then rested its
opening to his bottom lip. Why did human beings end in such closure? Why
did they gain worth and awareness of their being only in personal
interactions? Was he nothing but the composite of other people's
impressions of him? These impressions--these judgments-- could not be
real. They were based on brief outward gestures and the judges had
nothing but their own usual experiences of their petty and selfish lives
to compare others with. In Japan women who left their children locked up
in hot cars were rarely accused of the crime of manslaughter; and in
Korea the handicapped, he had seen, were left to crawl like worms,
pushing their carts and singing their songs as traditional music blared
forth. He died every time he saw one of them. He yearned for the love
and the language where he could befriend someone who was handicapped and
he chastised himself for only being able to lay money in some of their
cans. Once he put his hand into the hair of such a man. He stroked the
hair around his face. The gesture lasted only a couple seconds. The man
screamed out something and a security guard began moving toward them.
Sang Huin placed money in the can and went away. Then he began to
question himself. Maybe it was loneliness that had compelled him to do
that. After all, the action was undoubtedly bizarre in the sense that no
one else did such things.  He was not wearing a monk's robe.  Another
man's fate was none of his business.  This type of action just was not
done; and yet, he was not the same as others. Suffering the paralysis
that would not allow him to make a full smile and finding the eyes x-
rays that could go, for the most part, beyond pleasant countenances to a
suffering innate in other beings, it was no wonder that he was peculiar.
It was no wonder that at Christmas parties or barrooms he sat and drank
in silence feeling like a buffoon for not acting like one. In ways he
was a buffoon: his taciturn ways that thwarted the lighthearted
frivolity of a world conceived out of motion was the substance that
often caused contemptuous laughs.

What did it matter? What did any of his actions towards others
matter?  Everyone came and left him. He was dizzy on a merry-go-round.

"You must all eat," said Sung Ki as he poured water into the
remaining rice in Sang Huin's bowl. He had heard it so many times. How
they had carried on an affair with the sister staying there and the
overnight visits of Sung Ki's father was a mystery.

They had met in the park in Umsong. Sang Huin was memorizing words
in his textbook entitled Let's Speak Korean. Sung Ki spoke something to
him in Korean. "Miguk Sarem imnidad" responded Sang Huin (I am an
American). Sung Ki, accompanied by a high school friend, took him to eat
kimbop (a Korean version of sushi). He spoke in English the entire time
neglecting his school friend from the conversation. After visiting a
couple museums, Sung Ki gave Sang Huin his beeper number. Sang Huin
invited him to a Christmas party held for students at a language
institute but stayed contained to his own students and his new friend,
Sung Ki. That night they slept together; and the boy that had stroked
Sang Huin's leg with his foot when they were eating kimbop wanted to
hold hands while the two of them lay next to each other. Sung Ki, soon
afterwards, began to plan out their time together. Sang Huin did what he
requested: touring the Independence Museum; mountain climbing; free
English lessons, and visits to his Buddhist temple and congregation.
Soon Sang Huin was spending every night at Sung Ki's apartment and a
month later their relationship was a sexual one.

Sang Huin thought about how Sung Ki cleaned the apartment by putting
a wet towel under one of his bare feet and sliding across the floor with
it; how he used to go into the bathroom with his newspaper and would not
come out for over an hour; and that sentence he would always say, "you
must all eat" meaning that every speck of rice left in the bowl should
be mixed with hot water into a soup so that nothing was wasted. On the
day that he learned that Sung Ki was going away he came to his apartment
and asked if there was anything he could do or get him. There wasn't. He
sat on the sofa, cold and pierced, as Sung Ki ignored him, cleaning one
thing or another and then reading something or another. Sung Ki lit a
cigarette and sat on a balcony that overlooked the mountains and rice
patties of Umsong. After a few more moments of silence, Sang Huin went
to him. His voice was shaky like a faltering foundation. He cried.  It
wasn't so much in reference to him as it was his sister.  It was his
first tears for her.  It was in reference to non-ending perpetual loss.
He knew that Sung Ki would construe it as solely for him.  He felt
embarrassed and the embarrassment increased as the two men hugged.  Sung
Ki began to cry. Sang Huin said, "I want to apologize. I'm sorry if I
did something wrong. You wanted a girlfriend and my friendship and I
made you have a boyfriend."

"It's okay. I liked the feeling then." That friendship had bit the

Right before the bus came to a stop, he fell into a dream where
there was a dust storm in Pyongyang.  He ran through one dong
(neighborhood) to another lost, looking for distinguishable signs,
shapes in buildings, and widths of streets.  Everything from the thin
dust-sheathed roads to the hangul (Korean language) on the signs, looked
as identical as the occasional mom and pop stores and it was all
indistinguishable from what he saw minutes and hours earlier.  He ran
into no one since the streets were empty.  Then he became careful of
where he stepped.  "The dust storm," he argued, "could have slid land
mines up from the thirty eighth parallel."  The more he thought about it
the more nervous he became and the more hurried.  When he became
breathless, he sat on a rock and drank the last of his bottled water.
The taste of sauerkraut and hot dogs was in his thoughts and the
boiling, bubbling surge of his saliva but he would have eaten kimchee or
someone's dog being as hungry as he was.  It became fully dark and he
would have known entire blackness were it not for the speckling of
stars, the moon, and a fire at a distance.  He walked over to the fire.
He saw four whores seated around a bonfire.  He recognized different
buildings, and the curves of the street near a hard dirt tennis court.
This was Ne Doc Dong. "Do you want me," said one, "or do you want
another?" Sang Huin's face turned a bright red like it did with drinking
a bottle of beer. He smiled and looked toward the sidewalk in his
embarrassment. He said, "No, I wouldn't; but would you have a brother?"

When he arrived in Chongju from the desolation of what was in
between Seoul and it, the population and activity of this small city
recreated an insatiable yearning for Seoul, which to him was a
storehouse of all extraordinary venues to the mind (encounters both
sexual and cultural). Large buildings were like the small mountains of
Umsong with a topping of cloud on a rainy day--monuments of beauty
welcoming him to its domain that edified and exhilarated his appetites
and his love. The mountains, until recently, transported his imagination
to green blankets of waving rice, and from there to farmers' markets and
rural parades celebrating the farmer, the daily appreciation of the
faces he saw, and the monotonous sounds of "Hello" from children and
high school students who knew of him.  Those students always made him
seem retarded when he couldn't communicate to their Korean rambling but
when he spoke to them in English with the same stream of words they
became giddy and the outcome was usually a positive one from his
perspective.  That was before he decided to sue his boss for the 10
million won that was owed to him. At that time he lost faith in the
man's decency and began to find the countryside monotonous even though
the continual exposure to greenery and remoteness had been healing to
his soul.

He left the bus in Chongju (where he was more or less residing) and
walked to the bathhouse called a mokotong. The day was fiercely hot and
he wondered if it would be better to jump on a city bus since he had
experienced heat exhaustion a week earlier and had to be put on an IV to
replenish his system. He pulled out some bottled water and crackers for
countering any remaining potassium deficiency. He needed a walk and was
not willing to be impeded by a weakly cowardice in broken manhood that
was contrary to his muscular form. He passed coffee shops, Samsung
stores, a convenience store called Lawsons, and one called Best Store.
Even though he could read some of the signs in Hangul he did not know
what he was reading for the most part. He wished that his family had
taught him his native language. Here he often felt like a handicapped
moron. If he were an Anglo-Saxon, a blue-eyed Miguk sarem English
teacher, spending 6 months in the host country without learning much of
anything about the Korean language, it wouldn't have been even a minor
offense.  To most he was a retarded Hanguk sarem.  He chuckled and then
smiled at the faces he took in.

He waited at a red light with other pedestrians. He sifted out
bodies and faces. For a few seconds he appreciated the old and the young
whom he saw. It was an unselfish sensation. It was spiritual and he
liked it. Then he lusted after the young men. He had hardly looked at
them lustfully while in America. Occasionally Korean women also got his
attention but not as much as American women. He had trouble believing
that such predilections were a summary of a man.  In fact they seemed to
him a cathartic release of energy that blocked manhood if manhood was
gaining equilibrium when coming up from the punches or finding a
positive expression of himself and the world, and even a pride in both,
within adversities. Since he quit his job following the suit and the
loss of Sung Ki from his life he went to Seoul often more for sex than
anything else. How easy it was. All he had to do was put his eyes on
someone at a bar called "Trance," around Pagoda Park, or at the movie
theatre behind it and off they went to his hotel room. What was it? A
strong yearning for his native land and the man he might have been had
he not been replanted in America, an over-identification with his own
sex, or fragmentation from violence that had disgorged a close family
and made him distrustful of those bindings and obligations that could go
awry. He did not know. He did not know that it mattered.  Anyhow, here
his lusts were pursued cathartically in part and lovingly in that
addictive clinging in part but always he was falling free and naked into
their pools of sensation.

He did not think that he was all that bored. He had around fifteen
hours of classes a week and was able, with that, to gain a salary
commensurate to what he should have received monthly from his former
employer. It turned out to be perfectly legal. After all, he was a
Korean citizen, albeit one on a traveler's visa, and so he did not have
to work for anyone but himself. He didn't have to do all that much but
be able to speak English. He went to museums in Seoul on his free time
even though the experience was a bit redundant since there weren't
enough temporary exhibitions to entertain and enlighten him for long.
The period after sex cloyed empty into the night like a finished game of
solitaire. He knew that reality whenever he chose to engage in it and
yet he did it nonetheless. He wanted an exchange of higher and lower
energies (or at least thought he did), but men throughout the world were
afraid of anything but the latter. Reality was as it dictated: and for
the most part he did not want to make a seedy experience into something
transformational by exchanging names and telephone numbers, and making
subsequent calls although that was what he secretly wished-the tattered
man that he was.

He entered the mokotong. He picked up a key, a toothbrush, and a
razor at the counter. He took off his shoes and left them with the
worker who deposited them into a small shoe locker; and then he went to
his clothes locker. He took off all of his clothes except for his
underwear. He locked them in. Then he went to the toilet. He put on the
typical bathroom slippers made of plastic that were used in toilets
because they were often wet and dirty. He went back, after urinating,
and reopened his locker. He took off his underwear and deposited it
there. He had become so socialized to the need of a beeper (not that he
ever got any calls apart from students needing to re-change their hours
of study) that he hated to keep it there suffocating under his socks. It
was an inanimate object but, instrument that it was, it was a source for
possible connectedness.  Like a child, in his more subconscious
thoughts, it was his friend.  Still, Koreans, as addicted as they were
to pagers and the new popularity of cellular telephones, could not
easily dangle them from their penises at a mokotong. He locked the
locker and felt "Honja" ("alone). Even among large groups of people he
was alone. When he went to restaurants he was usually "honja," and had
to declare it. When he studied Korean, read great literature, went to a
museum, saw a video at the video pang, or went to a mokotang he was
alone and often questioning how anything could be enjoyable in such
remoteness.  There was pain in it but like any adaptive mammal choosing
one lesser pain to the greater one (in his case choosing the aloneness
of his thoughts to the sociability of the masses) there were times when
he wasn't even aware of how alone he really was.  Everything was
measured by its impact on others but the pre-adolescent, found buried
deep in the man, could always play alone. When violence was really known
and the world was conclusively bad in one's perspective one could go at
it alone.

In the shower he used a type of dual washcloth connected together
like a mitten. He put his hand inside of it and used its abrasive side
to scour his body. He tried not to stare at all of the bodies doing the
same. He spent just a few minutes in a whirlpool because of the
intensity of the heat and then dived into the extremely cold waters of
the pool. His heart raced and coldness tingled through his body. Koreans
believed in the salubrious qualities of ginseng, dog meat, and sudden
exposure to extreme heat and cold.  Besides him, there were only two
boys and a young man with a rubber ball within the cold pool, but only
he swam circularly enjoying the solitude as much as one could. Every now
and then, by his lack of focus, he swallowed water in his lust for a man
or two lying on the edge of the pool where the heat of the whirlpools in
the adjacent room entered and hypnotized them dozingly. He concentrated
on the steam that rose above his head, exhausted itself on the mirrors,
the waves that he had created which massaged his psyche in sight, feel
and sound, and the three figures that enjoyed the water with him at a

It had been disconnection that had brought him here to the mokotong,
as it had to Seoul or even to South Korea itself.  People had come and
gone out of his life in such a storm, and he was in an existence
floundering on something without a stable foundation. It was a miracle,
to him, that he had been able to finish his studies at the University of
Houston following his sister's death.  Back then while students paraded
themselves in the insouciance of sociable gestures reflecting their
sexual rhythms he had dangled alone like a skeleton in a neurosurgeon's
office. He liked the flexibility of his schedule here in Korea.  He
needed plenty of free time to think his weird thoughts and reconstruct
himself as long as his thoughts did not collapse onto him, burying him

At the least provocation, in late August, he began to come to her,
his favorite city, lost and uncertain with eyes somewhat wild and
fearful but yearning and believing in Seoul's power to provide him with
experiences that would thrust him into a better knowledge of himself and
the world. She would reflect onto him a more refined and loving being
(or, at a lower stage, a loved one since he knew that it might be true
that he was one of those tattered souls who weren't needing to learn how
to be loving at this point but just needing to feel loved).

Four or five times around the pool were enough to tire him to a
respite of ten minutes sitting on its edge and contemplating the
movements of the people around him. Their forms transcribed into ideas
concerning what he thought their lives might be like; and from there,
feeling and the musical notes encroached from distant spaces within his

There had been a time when the whole world seemed to him full of
connections. Perhaps that is what made his childhood memories so
special: as a child he believed that their meaning would go on forever.
The temporary nature of family marshmallow roasts and monopoly games
with his father; tire swings and neighbor's tree houses; bicycle radios
fastened to handlebars; selling snow cones to passing cars; bicycle
routes; meatloaves, potatoes, and onion rings; bi bi bop and kimchi
chige; that trip to Arkansas at a distant relative's house and how he
and his sister had played in the snow with a "cousin" the whole day; his

Oh, how painful! He didn't want to think of that ever. He wanted to
find the beauty of the present moment. How good it was to stretch out
into motion; to feel the power of his arms; and the embrace of water.

He thought about how on his walk here an ordinary happening had
touched him without even then being aware of it.  A young boy standing
at a curb with other pedestrians waiting for the light to change rocked
a metal, rectangular trash container, which swung back and forth on a
hinge. Sang Huin put his hand on his head in passing; and the world
could not have seemed more rich and connected by this impersonal
incident than if Sung Ki's Buddha had manifested himself supplying
answers to every question that Sang Huin had ever had in his head. This
contentment and absorption in the poetic qualities of the present moment
lasted only that long: a moment. He told himself that he continually
wanted to be in the present moment as fully as this no matter how banal
or what lonely patterns it consisted of.  It was better than searching
through memories of people long gone who had no capability of returning
to him again.

He pulled his dangling legs from the pool. So much came and went. It
was hideous in a way: he could not determine who or what was important.
He wasn't even sure how much people were supposed to mean to him, if
anything at all. Of his friend, Yang Kwam, what importance to the long-
term aspect of his life did this man make?  Disconnection ran amuck
looting the benign corpses of good memories.  After sitting himself on a
bench in front of the pool, a sadness at the loss of his friendship with
Yang Kwam made him feel age that he did not possess.

He watched a couple young men stretch out in motion.  He watched
their splashing, their excitement, and their frenzying limbs with the
awareness that this tousling around had no higher significance.  He got
a vision in his mind.  It was a feeling with musical notes. He got his
underwear and his book bag from the locker and dressed himself
marginally. In the dark sleeping room of the mokotang, where many
businessmen got their only bit of relaxation from the week, he sat in a
reclining chair near the window and began writing down notes but he felt
that he was dabbling.  He deluded himself that an ability to record
notes on a staff would tranform him from an amateur cello performer and
general musical dilettante to a composer.  it was a dream for dreams
meant that he was more than amarginally educated professionless clod
kicked by circumstances to job, residence, and sexual orientation.
Dreams meant that he was more than a mere carbon organism jilted around
by electrical activity in the circuitry within the result of hornomal
activity and the results of genetics.  Dreams deluded him with a sense
of purpose that would be mroe pleasant than reality.

One man's long and thick penis throbbed up and down on its own
volition by the impetus of dreams. Sang Huin tried not to stare but he
could not help it. His eyes, still getting over an eye virus, began to
hurt and he felt tired. He put away his composition and then put his
hands over his eyelids.

He went to sleep. He dreamed of a woman named Gabriele driving down
a country road in Arkansas. She reached for a can of snuff that was on
her dashboard. The roads she chose were random and she kept yearning to
move southwest until she was out of America to that neighboring country
of Mexico so different than the homogonous American model that was rife
the world over.  He saw into her mind and her hopes to cross over the
Mexican border and veer off the main road through adobe hamlets, and
cacti and past Mexican Indians.

When he woke from his epiphany he wasn't sure what to do with it so
he returned to the pool only to find it had been drained. Seven streams
of water gushed from spouts at the bottom of the pool and three young
boys were running around in the collecting waters--one kicking water up
to the lower parts of the mirror that covered the walls.  It all
reminded him of his mother blowing up a plastic pool for he and his
sister and how she ran the hose over to the pool to fill it with water.
He could remember how the two of them had splashed freely inside it for
hours but were so prudishly careful that neighbors hosed off their
grassy feet before entering with them.  He remembered telling one
neighbor boy to get out after he had disregarded the rule, soiling their
clean waters, and when he, "Shawn," wouldn't leave he got out to tell
his mother only to gain the enflaming sting of Texan fire ants on the
souls of his feet. He could remember his screams more than the sting. He
looked toward his reflection on the nearest part of the mirrored wall,
but still steamed, it wasn't there.

His thoughts crumbled like Graham crackers and spilled like pints of
milk that Mrs. Ghrame, the kindergarten teacher, had given to each class
member as they watched Winnie the Pooh and Piglet on television before
being made to sleep on mats for a nap.  He felt lost childhood with so
many forgotten memories sucking him into an invisible vortex of dust. He
was running around with a cowboy hat, a play gun, and a holster.  He was
running around in his own wayward thoughts before adolescence created a
hunger for beautiful bodies and a neediness that he would never be able
to shake.

He jolted up and went where there was more light. He seated himself
on a bench near a row of lockers believing that what he had was some
story unrestrained by notes but when he put the pen to paper notes
exuded there. He sensed the brilliance that came to him and felt awe
toward the paper that could magically reflect the mood and full realm of
his mind. He yearned to embrace his cello and to practice the notes of a
Gabriele symphony that he was composing.

Chapter Two

He dressed himself.  As he put on his socks, he did it with the
mentality of a small child who still felt newness in the sensation.
Sexual glutton of adult games, introvert, a man perpetually weakened and
wary in ways unbecoming to a man, he still was a little wiser than most
on a couple issues.  He was cognizant that as an effect of adolescent
awakenings an adult often was so obsessed with being in the company of
others that finding any degree of happiness could not occur without
them.  He was a lot different in that respect: influences by hormones to
sociability were thwarted by his wariness that gave him back his
childhood innocence.  Although he was an adult he could still play alone
albeit uneasily. Also they, the unwary ones, were so fixated on gaining
bigger and more complex pleasures in their gross gluttony to have
everything before death that the marvel of air rushing into one's lungs
or the feel of a spring breeze brushing against one's face was lost to
them entirely. He wanted the remnant of early childhood--the memories of
strong aromas, sights, and sounds as his senses depicted them-- to live
in him and not be the cause of mourning. He wanted to find the traces of
deceased family in those early days and be able to glance back onto
those tenuous decaying remnants of memory with a sense of happiness at
what was once there. Still, even with the earliest and most benign
memories furthest removed from the tragic end, such a feat was difficult
to master. Everything in the mind of a 5-year-old from the smells of
greased telephone polls to the sounds of the school bus that picked up
his older 7-year-old sister, and everything in the mind of a 10-year-old
from getting his first b-b gun to spending his first time away from
family at a summer camp was like walking barefoot on sharp gravel. This,
however, was better than having his entrails hacked out of him in that
shock of finding his father dangling from a noose in the workroom of his
basement.  Thinking that early memories were even more benign than the
present, he knew that it was only his thinking that made them painful.
He judged that he was the source of his misery and with application he
would find a way to plant himself in their fecund topsoil and burgeon
into the future.  His childhood memories were mostly American in origin
although it was difficult to isolate the Korean episodes from that of
the latter. After the school bus would rush in front of a road near the
trailer park and whisk his sister away, his mother would pursue her
early morning exercises in front of the television and he would emulate
her movements. He remembered loving the thought of catching lightning
bugs like his sister and the neighbor children and his repulsion towards
it when his mother stated that they were "God's little creatures." He
remembered getting lost in a store, feeling tiny among lady mannequins,
and being nearly hit by a car as he played in the street. A man yelled
at his mother for letting her child run around unrestrained in the
streets. Humiliated, she sent him to the bedroom of the trailer. The
radio on the mantle of the bed was playing  "Raindrops keep falling on
my head" and other lugubrious folk melodies. He listened. He cried on
her white blanket as if she had banished him forever. He remembered that
his father came home on that occasion and took him to the Orbit Inn for
a coca cola.  He twirled around on a stool restored to his euphoria as
his father strutted his work talk to men his age seated on other stools.

Walking from the mokotong he thought of a story that he often read
to the children in Kwang Sook's kindergarten in Chongju, a place where
he often worked for a few hours each week.  But his mind distorted it as
the benign and innocuous innocence of childhood is mutilated and the
mutilation calcified by experience.  Seoul Tiger gets on a plane.  He
waves goodbye to his mother and father from the window.  He feels the
plane move and rise in the air.  He shuts his eyes briefly.  Then he
opens them widely in amazement.  Seoul Tiger looks through the window.
He sees a valley of clouds below him.  Then he looks down further and he
sees Sri Lanka.  The plane lands.  Seoul Tiger gets out of the plane.
He gives the deferential slight bow and says hello to Tamil Tiger.
Tamil Tiger picks up his suitcase and takes it to a car.  Tamil Tiger's
mother is in the car.  She says, 'Hello' to Seoul Tiger.  They all go to
the home of Tamil Tiger's family.  Tamil Tiger's mother slaughters a pig
and boils it in her stew while her husband brandishes a machete
playfully.  Then they all eat at the table.  'Do you eat rice?' asks
Seoul Tiger.  'No, I eat unleavened bread,' says Tamil Tiger.  'Here are
some Rotis.'  Tamil Tiger passes him the plate.  The plate has rotis on
it.  Seoul Tiger holds the unleavened bread in his palm wondering how to
eat it.  Then a stew, called a curry, is put upon his plate.  'Do you
eat kimchee?' asks Tamil Tiger. 'What is kimchee?" asks Tamil Tiger.

Again he was bouncing around in a bus without time to rush back
to the yangwam, the room he rented outside of an old woman's home. He
questioned himself on why he had agreed to give private lessons in
various places outside of Chongju.  He answered to himself that the
strung out schedule and the long rides matched his disorganized, wayward
thoughts. It felt comfortable to bounce around in the similar movements
of his circumambulatory personal life.   He hoped that the bus would
arrive in time so that he could eat a meal before going into those
lessons. People in these small towns would not acknowledge his handicap
of linguistic ignorance. They demanded more than his short, concrete,
and ungrammatical utterances. If he had been an Anglo-Saxon he would
have been served in restaurants with simple statements like "Chop che
bop, chushipshio" (chop che bop, please). But in small towns even a
waitress who had experienced him before would come forth with entire
paragraphs to serve onto him and then would stand there bewildered that
paragraphs of reciprocal eloquence would not be returned by someone
clearly of her nationality. At last she would go away and the dinner
would come for the retard. This time, as always, he ate quickly and then
waited for some woman's children to get him at the bus terminal. He did
not know the woman's name even though he taught there and she gave him
money and he did not know her children's names even though he taught
them. They were just his "little tongmuls" (little animals). Sang Huin
did not like the difficulty of memorizing Korean names so he did it

Inside the bus station he changed to a different bench. A two or
three year old girl, chastised by her mother, sought refuge between his
legs and would not come out. She closed the legs like an iron gate. The
mother did not seem to demand that she leave the fortress; and he
enjoyed the fact that she seemed to gain comfort from his presence even
though his face expressed the awkwardness of having her there.

He missed childhood. Surely all people did. Was it so awful to admit
this? No one that he had ever known had spoken of his or her loss.
Granted, one could not stay comatose in innocence--the delight of
pulling some trivial plastic or paper objects from cereal boxes;
Halloween costumes; or the Christmas togetherness. The newness of
running around trying to beat the clouds or run barefoot after balls in
the ecstasy of  just being alive ended quickly to girl chases,
obligations, family, and all of such dead weight. He couldn't have
stayed with his mother forever. If he could have remained steady on the
American continent he would have needed more than just her; and so
alone, with a sense that he would never find family or closeness again,
he had ventured here to another continent that was and wasn't his home,
and where he did not speak a language that was and wasn't his. Still,
coming here was not entirely bereft of positive notions. Being an
innocent, a childish perspective prevailed.

He wanted to once again hold something tenuous and fragile in the
palm of his hand as a child would a tinctured caterpillar, the
butterfly.  He wanted to be there with it innocuously in awe of
something that really had no use to him.  He loathed this interaction,
this anathema of the soul so intertwined in insatiable and wanton
selfishness.  He wanted to be Seoul Tiger once again but such was not in
the survivalist impulses of man.  Such was not destiny.  Hadn't there
been numerous times when as a boy he would sit hours with a stray dog
that was needing to claim a gentle master, scared to take it home and
yet, like a true friend, sensitive most to creatures that could not
articulate themselves in any other way than in the eyes.  The eyes, that
dilated neediness to be in the presence of a friend in a hostile world
where being born was not a sanction to live well or live long.  One's
innocence ran by like a shell-shocked soldier; circumventing normal
sexual drive by being gay would not free him to an innocence that was
forlorn.  Now there was just the wistful need for family, children he
helped to say small things, and his strange obsession with empty
physical connections he could depart from easily.  He preferred young
students because they did not make him uncomfortable by pressing the
issue that a man in his early twenties should be planning to have a
family. His private domain consisted of a blessed, taciturn instrument
called a cello that required no words to say something deep. He had
dragged it on the plane and had paid an astronomical fee to get it onto
the airlines. What a burden it had been to him lugging the thing around
and yet, dilettante that he was, he needed some beauty to exude out of
his hardened mud.  He needed reverberating notes to sink into the
plaster cast around his mind, which had the signature of the world as an
evil place upon it , and caress his soft and lonely brain.

Finally, the two or three-year-old parted one of the kneecaps and
the mother pushed candy bribes before her nose to keep her quiet and
contained. Soon they bought a ticket in the Chinchon station and boarded
a bus. All bus terminals in cities under a million people had cement
floors and were dark and dirty like a cellar. Just like he had seen in
myriad other terminals, here a man came along with a plastic watering
bucket with a nozzle used for watering plants. He rinsed the floor with
the water contained in it but did
not follow that with either a mop or a broom. A few minutes later, two
boys came into the terminal. One had a basketball in his hands. The
other one stood a few feet behind him. He looked bored and fat.

"Anyong Haseyo" (Peace you do)

"Anyong Hashimnika, Sonsaeng nim," (Peace you do, teacher), said the
one with the basketball.

"Uri-tul nun taxi ul sayang hata?" (We taxi to use?) He knew it was
as ungrammatical as a pig. He knew that again there would be no taxi.
Again they would be walking.  Still it was his way of saying something.
The one with the basketball who could figure it out shook his head.

They walked down the sidewalks. The two boys lead the way. Sang Huin
felt that the roles had been inverted and he felt a twinge of resentment
that he was a child or a retard in his own native country and that
children were dragging him about. The three of them moved down sidewalks
like window-shopping loiterers looking into every mom and pop store
along the way. "Ilchik tangshin-tul rul basketball ul hayoshimnita
kachi?" (Early you basketball did?) The fat boy nodded his head
silently. The boy knew his genius in interpretive skills.  A sense of
pride exuded over his face in a white light but the flush of expression
was extremely ephemeral. It came upon him and vanished in just a few

"Who won?" asked Sang Huin in English.

The fat boy pointed to himself with his thumb. He even smiled for a
second in a sort of bored way.

Then they opened a gate and they went into what looked like a house
only it was separated into two apartments.

Sang Huin used his photograph cards like magic tricks to get them to
practice tenses and syntax. He liked seeing their tiny house and
thinking how his life might have been--for better or for worse--within
the childhood of his race. He loved English as he loved music; and
sometimes he combined the two in such classes, but with a small feeling
of resentment (to which his smile and gentle nature gave no indication)
as if his time was sodden in musical doggerel that defiled him like a
solecism when he might well be playing Haydn and Boccherini.

He wondered about the girl dressed in the dumpy blue skirt of her
school uniform, and the boys in jeans. Were they content to be Koreans
or did they yearn for bigger and better things seduced by the American
culture that came to them through the cinema and the music and through
his presence as well as the English that they studied. If they weren't
content, he thought, it wasn't for him to say they were wrong. It was a
globalized world and America was the power and the standard that was the
impetus for its formation. That was why he was here with his English. He
couldn't have gotten any other job in Korea when he couldn't master the
simplest of sentences in the native language. He didn't like the sour
perceptions that he had of America. It was home. It was still home.

In Umsong, during those times he had waited in the office of the
kindergarten for his class to begin, the children would always see him
through the window. They knew at that point that he didn't speak Korean
and wasn't one of them and for that reason they were attracted to him.
They would bang and climb on the window in their eagerness to be near
him; and some, using a runny nose as an excuse, would be permitted to go
into the hall. To the side of a fish aquarium hung a roll of toilet
tissue. They would wipe their noses and peak into the office. They would
squeal. He liked it. He liked being an American--sometimes.

He looked more intensely at these Chinchon students. Who would they
become? As they begin to feel hormones, the adrenaline of the four-year
high called love, and the frenzy of sex luring them into steady
relationships and accompanying obligations, would they have moments
where they too yearned to be in a hammock under their Grandma Lee's
cherry trees?  In his case he could recall the image of a photograph of
a neighbor his family had labeled as "Grandma" Vera with her black dress
rustling in the wind carrying him in her arms. Would they think upon
theirs-something similar to Vera frying hamburgers on the grill as the
scents of angel-food cakes came from the windows of her kitchen?  He
chastised himself.  He told himself that only broken people looked back
on childish irrelevance. The rest looked to the future in their
insatiable hungers for bigger pleasures and their present connections
that they might use to secure their hedonistic whims.  But he was a
"broken" person and the thought of Vera returned to him.  When he
thought of her intensely the image emblazoned in memory shook him and it
was hard to think that it could not make her alive again. And yet to
have had a connection (and the most unfortunate of lives surely have had
many) would justify everything. A personal contact in the past or when
the wind...or the sun...or the rain touched him, that alone would
justify a life of barren prospects.

"Unto us a child is born. Unto us a child is given."  He thought of
the words of the composer, Handel. Yes, he thought, he had done a
horrible thing by encouraging his girlfriend to abort their child. It
was wrong to have robbed a being of life and any connections the fetus
might have had beyond its own cell divisions.  Secondly, this cynicism
that a woman, spellbound in romance, robbed a man of his sperm to
produce a baby by which to devote herself and obtain a purpose in life
while thrusting him into the financial maintenance of this prize had
caused him to abort major connections in his own life. Now, apart from
his mother, there were no connections.  There were only phantoms of
people flitting through ethereal consciousness, and by coming here to
find his land he had parted from her.  When his sister was murdered, he
was just beginning his studies at the university. When his father
committed suicide, Sang Huin's cadaverous numbness was on fire and he
felt that any trace of himself was being incinerated.  Mentally, he was
running to and fro in the hope of retarding the flames that were eating
him for their fuel. Back then the thought of his father dangling from
the noose recurred to him every few moments. At that time he wanted to
check himself into a hospital for he felt a loss of sanity.  His world
was three dimensional but totally impersonal and wobbling. After months
of virtual silence and the icy stares of his mother through the most
enervated and perfunctory movements of planting flowers and trees no
different than what she had or stripping wallpaper and putting up
patterns that were nearly identical to the old ones, he spent a month in
Galveston.  A month watching waves dash against the shore was enough to
make him see that being one of a billion waves dashed into the sands was
a pattern engrained into life that he must not take personally; and so
he returned to school. By will and discipline in reigning in his
thoughts he made it through college and a year of graduate school.  But
he could not take the stagnation that scholarly pursuits forced him to
endure and became the animated billiard ball being shot from one area of
the table to the next--one part of the country to the next--falling
homeless into dark holes.

Sadness punched him in the stomach. It was enough--"nomu" (too
much). He frowned. He didn't care. Six or seven minutes early--who would
mark the time especially when he traveled such a distance to give them
these lessons. He told them that the session had ended and they got an
envelope of money from their mother, which they brought to him. The
session didn't seem as if it had begun. It all was a vacuum--a void.  He
untied the double knots that were contained on his shoes and put them
on. Korean people were so quick at slipping on shoes, and he assumed
that anytime someone waited for him to leave it was a complete
aggravation for them. His mother had spent so much time teaching him to
tie and then double-tie. He had been such an ignorant and inept child.
The habit was deeply engrained in his psyche. The students stared and
waited at his childish wrestling with his shoes. He knew that he needed
slip-ons that would foster a quick exodus after he had taken them off at
the door.

He stepped out over the crevice of a yard. A light sprinkling or
heavy mist was falling upon him. Past the gate and into the street the
generalized memories of a hundred such days with a hundred similar rains
came to him. Rain was for him only a baptism of emancipation.  From a
glance up at the clouds he was compelled to acknowledge realities
outside his own thoughts--and indeed Sang Huin needed the rain of Noah
to get out of his own ruminations. Yet, a foreigner's experience was
indeed like no others' and he was an introverted being traumatized by
the great chasm of the murder of a sibling and finding the blue dangling
body of his father. At 24, any man's boyhood was buried under only a
shallow layer of dirt and for one with maimed manhood the clay was never
solid, was partially washed away, and boyhood often resurfaced. He was a
runaway from the American experience and his thoughts, when not able to
do it in deeds, almost always ran to Seoul.  The rural areas where he
worked and at one time had lived gave him the solitude and the
meditative power to think his weird thoughts as he tried to reconstruct
his manhood but the problem was that he did it too much. Seoul was
felicity, the exhilarating movements, the museums, the symphonies, and
the sexual bliss.  Within it the hurt was diffused and boyhood was
gagged and he was rarely cognizant of its screams. At the bus station it
began to rain heavily. A few years ago, he thought, the sun had droned
on with the days of the trial and the rare rain had been his only

In an hour's time, during the bus ride, each of these students would
be completely gone from his mind exuded like the entangling conundrums
of feeling, ideas, and senses in sleep. If all people were shadows of
this realm in the flickering of light, what solid entity cast the
shadow? Was it God? Was there a god?  If the shadows were more concrete
than the light, what would this say about life? He decided to stop
thinking such things. Myriad complex and morbid thoughts, profound or
inane, would not raise him to a wiser man.  They would just get him
stuck in their muddy ruts.

Back in a bus, he thought about how much of his life was dragged
about in transportation here and there for a Korean buck. He didn't know
anybody in Chongju but a simple advertisement in the paper would have
been enough to solve his dilemma in providing him with private lessons
near his home for needed South Korean Won. Still, if his whole life was
spent in these bus rides, fate was not bad. He could be a starving North
Korean or one of the dead soldiers who got their submarine trapped on a
reef in the South Korean jurisdiction of the ocean and had been hunted
down by the South Korean soldiers. He had a South Korean passport and an
American residency. He was single and free to see the world. He didn't
do that much and had lots of time and some money to spend.

He had little mastery over his thinking. Since he was a creative
person it often went running wild through meadows with the gods. He knew
there was genius to be gained in the company of deities so wild.   He
had left his mother's home and his mother country to find manhood-
perverse, greedy, manhood with its insatiable wants, its selfish
calculating plans, and its grandiose desire to find its own unique
adventures and habits.  She, his mother, would meanwhile be re-planning
and redecorating rooms. He loved her deeply but she was not everything.
He needed more connections to keep himself from rising like a balloon
and going adrift; and lacking them, looking onto his life from the
clouds, he could see the obvious: that this mortal would not be there
when he became much older. For all of his life there was only one claim
to be made and that was upon himself.  In this respect he was quite

Chapter Three

Traditional homes often had extra guesthouses as an extension to the
main unit and it was within this "yogwam" in Chongju that he more or
less had residence. Luckily for him, during summers these outdoor rooms
were not so horrible but in winters the cold snuffed the residents out
of sleep in early mornings as animals from forest fires and the mostly
aged tenants, before finding warmth elsewhere, would individually go to
splash their bodies and faces in a shared bathroom not much different
than the ones bears use in zoos. One low faucet fed the cement creek,
which had a plastic bowl floating in it. No different than one's paws,
the bowl was the means of obtaining a bath.

It was in a bland closet sized room that his cello was in one corner
and he, a laptop computer, a short wave radio, and his stack of clothes
were at the other end. When he arrived there after teaching in Chinchon,
the ride made him feel exhausted; and after an hour of work, his
notebook paper with the Gabriele symphony was under the sweaty socks of
his feet, the Voice of America news broadcast became nothing but static,
and he was asleep.

A person remembers his last dream if awakened in a specific stage of
dreaming, if the mind is devising some way to startle the dreamer into
going to the bathroom, or if the examination of present problems in a
skit becomes violent images running amuck.  Unrepressed wishes, and
rehearsing events before they actually take place to gain some sense of
how to respond before they occur are the ideas most often given for
dreaming but the brain is a revelatory organ not of future events but of
present realities; and so it was with him.

He dreamt it was Buddha's birthday and that Yang Kwam was under a
huge canvas canopy on a university campus where the ground was a hard
sandless desert. Those under the canvas were resting and drinking as the
others played soccer; but Sang Huin was alone on a dry and grassless
bluff that overlooked the activity. He was drifting on and off in sleep;
and although a bit conscious of being alone and feeling reluctant to
have Yang Kwam involved in a host of other lives in his absence, he was
unwilling to tamper with fate or reduce his exposure to the sun, shaped
with divine human limbs like Aten himself, that kept putting him to

A man came up to him. He first spoke in Hanguk mal (Korean), but
upon getting no acknowledgment of having been understood, he changed to

"I thought that you surely knew a little Korean. It is my mistake."

Sang Huin sat up.

"Let me introduce myself. My name is Kim Jin Huan. My major is
tourism. I study here at Chongju University and I'm part of the English
club here among other things. I'm very pleased to meet you. You can
teach me lots of things and we can become friends but I can't learn at
this altitude--not even of you. I think it is best to come down below
where the sun is not so hot. You are surely thirsty."

Sang Huin shook his head and laid it back on the big rock that he
used as a pillow.

"I came up here to ask you if you would like to come down and join
everyone else although it was suggested that it would not be an easy
task. Sung Ki  [the dream now made Yang Kwam Sung Ki] was saying that
you like dirt. He said--I don't know why-- that the floor of your
apartment was dirty and that there were lots of mosquitoes there. He
said that is why he tells you to stay with him. He said that I'd have
trouble getting you out of the dirt. I don't know that this is all true
but you surely know by now that dirty rooms, dirty plates, and dirty
dogs--Koreans have no tolerance for these things. You really should not
be lying in the dirt like this. I know you don't know me but that is my
advice." Then he smiled ingenuously.

Sang Huin knew the man's snobbishness showed that he was ignorant of
suffering and deliberately ignored the dirt from whence all carbon
molecules spring into life.  "Koreans--North Koreans or South Koreans?"
asked Sang Huin as he propped part of his upper body with the use of his

"South Koreans, of course."

Sang Huin didn't say anything. He was from the greatest and most
powerful nation on the Earth (at least it was at the present date if the
European Union "stayed out of things"-a common idea of his father's that
made him smile) and, in his perceptions, it was being equated with dirt
the way Americans envisioned most all other countries including those in
Western Europe.

"Everyone wants to talk to you in English."

"But I don't want to," said Sang Huin kindly. "I'm tired of saying
little things and hearing little things. I don't mean to be rude."

"Are you happy to lie out here like an animal?"

"Yes. You know..." he paused. He had trouble getting out words that
would refute the visual evidence of him lying in the dirt. Such words
had to be special if they were to vindicate a nation and its people not
to mention himself and all physical evidence. There were no words that
he possessed for such a feat so he reverted to attitudes fixated in his
childhood and thus became childish in the process. "You know, Americans
think that South Korea is a little third world country composed of
nothing but dirty people."

"Is that so? Is that your opinion of your people?"

"No," he said sullenly as he shook his head, not knowing who his
people were.  "I have to think out here in the dirt.  I know it is
strange.  You don't know me.  Of course you think I'm strange.  I just
enjoy seeing insects crawling around in the dirt and the dirt itself-
everything that comes from it is inspirationally calm."  He laughed. "I
guess I like playing in the dirt like a child." He knew that he must be
an amusing caricature for them.

"You don't have to do much. It is kind of hard to fail. Just drink a
beer and ask them little things. 'What is your name? Where do you live?
How many people are in your family?' They can't interact with tape
recorders. Can't you do that?" Sang Huin ignored him.

"Don't you have any goals?"

"No, not really." He sat up as if he were taking a defensive
posture within the limits of his personality. He spoke with mild
sincerity squeezed in with a bit of sarcasm, giving the depths and
secrets of his being in a laconic paragraph to this stranger. "No, I
have come to the conclusion that doing nothing in a bad world is
improving it so I want to contribute in this way. You know, maybe there
are people out there who do nothing but lie around in the dirt.  I don't
know that they are any worse off to be dirty.  I don't know that I'm
better than they are by usually preferring not to act that way. I'm just
another creature out there with microorganisms in my body helping to
clear out my intestines."  He felt his warm burning face. "I guess I am
getting a little sun burnt out here but so far it has been a good
experience." Around him little pieces of trash were dancing around
circuitously. He heard the sound of a vehicle he could not see since it
was at a distance. The world was alive.

"Suit yourself," said the man.

Upon awakening and sitting up in his blanket and futon on the floor,
there was such a clear image erect and tilted in the forefront of his
mind that it almost seemed to be registered in his perceptions as
reality and not a part of his dreams.  It was of a German American woman
in a Volkswagen driving southwest through America's heartland to the
destination of Mexico but driven insatiably to an isolated state as if
the car could take her straight into Antarctica. She, Gabriele, spit her
snuff into an empty beer can as she drove. This odd and unusable vision
was not, to his knowledge, reflective of any psychological state of his
own, and yet it somehow seized him. She was broad and burly, isolated
and insulated but worldly and perceptive. Sang Huin sensed a story
within her. It was not music. She had too many notes. The stagnation of
the room, however, pushed him into the drone of movement and this
movement flattened this vision and made him the doormat under the weight
of the day.

He got dressed. He felt agitation at the idea of having to go all
the way out to Muguk for his doctor's class but at 4:00 A.M. he slipped
on his pants, regardless, and walked outside to the bathroom. He would
have to get in a taxi by 4:30; be on the bus by 5:00; and travel an hour
and twenty minutes all for a class that lasted less than an hour. The
class was composed of psychiatrists, surgeons, and those practicing
internal medicine but they were on a soldier's salary and the payment he
got for the class was paltry. Still, he said that he would do it. They
had lost money for classes they did not receive at Shin Se Gye when he
quit there.

Near Muguk, from the bus, he saw farmers of the dawn planting their
weedy rice patties by hand.  They were dressed in baggy shirts and
rolled up pants and pointed straw hats covered their heads. Their long
boots were entrenched in mud.   According to his romantic perceptions of
them, each one was august, unpretentious, and melting into the morning
sun. Those rags they wore were more patriotic than flags and more
majestic than King Sejong the Great's crown. Once their farms had been
irrigated into ponds and frogs croaked within the allure of their
enclave they would have sewn not only rice but the continuation of
civilization. Their footprints in mud were ephemeral, but they had their
eternity in their families. He asked himself what eternity he would have
in such a decadent and disconcerted existence that was obsessed by this
mixing of people in an emotion of love that brought the selfish and
altruistic splashing of the other in one's container and he or she into
theirs.  Love still was something that he hadn't really experienced and
he hadn't experienced it because of his greater obsession with carnal

What made him attack himself so? It was obvious. As a gay man he
reshaped perception in an uncomfortable way (although undoubtedly he was
not the first): his life became an admission that there was no
operator's manual for any man's life; but when he saw couples with their
babies he believed, in contrary to this, that a natural course in a
man's life had been severed or abducted from him and so life became all
the more confusing. He could not do otherwise than to feel sad and
insecure. It was a loss in his life and he did not deny that it was
such. He was not really envious when he saw them. It made him pleased to
see them even though in such occurrences he felt empty and stunted at

It made him sick to think that--oh, the same old disconcerted
thoughts spun around and around in his head like when a bad tune by its
prevalence repeats itself over and over in the tape recorder of the
psyche and the repetition feels like drudgery. It made him sick to think
that he had caused a woman to conceive and then had not been forceful
enough with his will to ensure that the child would be born--no, that
was just a fantasy albeit a partially believed one.  Really he had
insisted on the abortion but as time went on the perception changed with
the neurons and the desire to have a good self-image. But this was the
past: immobile, irrelevant, and except for occasional lesions that
opened up the bleeding of memory, forgotten by all. The future was
anxiousness where hopes of happiness were thoughtlessly draped against

In the doctors' class, held at Dr. Lee's breakfast table, he brought
up articles and political cartoons for discussions. Everything from the
continuing menace of Saddam Husein, incursions into the demilitarized
zone by North Korea, the Yonsei University student demonstrations, the
convictions of the ex-presidents, and all of the most newsworthy of the
world's unhappy events were there for the probing. But today, upon
leaving, he remembered an article he had forgotten to bring to them: the
Taliban's restraint of war ravaged widows from work. The doctors liked
such things.  As Dr. Lee had pointed out, even happenings in the most
remote parts of the world often spread amuck like an oil spill in a
global community.  He remembered having forgotten this article when he
was walking out the door and then it slid from and fell off his memory

After walking to the Muguk bus depot he had second thoughts about
going back to Chongju. He got in a taxicab. That was the easy part. He
said, "Anyong Hashimnika?" and then probed his mind. "Odie ka?," (where
you go?) asked the taxi driver sharply. The word, "kang," meant river
and "mul" meant water. What, he thought to himself, was the word for
lake? "Kun mul? (big water), that would never work!" Somehow he
found it and got out a coherent sentence. The taxi took him there
leaving him on the shoulder of the road. He got out. The highway that
was the main road of the town was sandwiched between a bluff and a lake
reflecting the marginal space of the Korean landscape. There were no
classes for a while and the day was there to celebrate like the
disrobing and denuding of a goddess--or in his case, a god. Sang Huin
pulled off his shirt and rolled up his slacks. He sat down under a small
pavilion. Near it weeds grew. He plucked one and put it into his mouth.
He chewed it and sprawled himself on the bench thinking himself as a
more worldly version of Huckleberry Finn. Looking down at the waters and
the small fishing crafts that were tied to a few docks at a distance, he
thought about the Korean landscape in general images: the croaking of
frogs in the irrigated rice fields near the apartment that he once had
in Umsong; the farmers ("nongmin") who would insert each individual
plant as painstakingly as a plastic surgeon grated each item of hair.
In galoshes, they would trudge into the depths of mud to sow, reap, and
thresh the rice.  The moon above the empty Umsong stadium was a lambent
glow over the rice and gave a slight visibility to the forest that
interconnected a nearby field to the stadium.  None of it was all that
spectacular when compared to the variety and splendor of the vast
country, America, that was and wasn't his country; but still it was new
and he sometimes liked it.

Then, in full broadness, he saw Gabriele. There she was in a tight
t-shirt and wholly jeans. Hail beat upon the tin can of a trailer where
she lived with an infant and a cat. The hail seemed to her like the
bullets that she imagined from the distant war that America wedged
against Iraq. Then he saw the antithesis of this: big diamond earrings
dangling from her lobes and that she wore the most expensive fashions of
the elite that gave her broad and muscular German frame elegance as she
got ready to take her son to galleries, temporary exhibits, and then to
have him sit alone in a corner at these art parties where cheques were
often signed.  He saw him sitting in those strangers' homes as Sang Huin
himself had sat on the bleachers during his sister's basketball games.
He saw him taking umbrage with the gods (the sun god in particular if He
existed) for they had bore him in the suffocation of her gray colors
that sprayed out onto the world like a mist that none of his friends
went through.  For them it was sunny picnics of complete families,
weenie roasts, and marshmallow burnings over bonfires.  And there she
was again a younger entity, youth asphyxiating in the dust storm of
talcum powder that, in her trailer, she swept across the hills of his
buttocks, wishing to walk across hills and depart from family. . He felt
her true, committed, objection to everything in her big lonely home and
with everything consisting of so much it stayed latent in the confines
of her leaden eyes. He pulled out a notebook and sketched her different
varieties. Underneath her image, he began to cluster a second draft of
words and notes.  He didn't know what he was doing.

Chapter Four

Having had no book to sink into when he arrived at an apartment in
Umsong months earlier, he (this new arrival from America) must have
seemed like a bird trying to build a nest with two or three sticks. It
had been an insane episode for the scrutiny of his roommate-coworkers:
the way he had organized and reorganized his few things in the loosely
partitioned area of the living room and how he had been so reluctant to
speak. Hadn't he, in his disconnection, looked like a man suffering from
some neuron-entangled nervousness, heavy neurosis, or a bad prion making
the holes in his head to match the holes of his being.

His sister had been raped and mutilated.  At least that was the
theory-as much as one could assess from skeletal remains. The
prosecution wanted to horrify the jury with photographs.  Maybe they had
succeeded inordinately disconcerting the jury so that it couldn't
ascertain the facts and probabilities. The only measurable impact that
he knew of were ramifications of deep, paralyzing shadows that the three
of them fell into--so far and so eternal had been the abyss. "Were the
perpetrators human or hominids? If they were human, what did that say
about being human?" It had been their first unshared question easily
sensed in the eyes of each other. "Are all Americans like this?" they
had all silently thought. No one would have said such a thing. "Was all
humanity this way?" It was in their eyes--that and the wish to escape
the species. They were there: in this word "hell" that all had talked of
and few had ever gone into. Hell was full meaninglessness and savagery
without rationale and with a judicial system forcing the mutilated
further into unprecedented horrors.

Pusillanimous and cowering in fetal positions within themselves,
limping around the days with perfunctory and lifeless movements, his
father had nonetheless spoken of "getting on" with things although he
couldn't define what one was supposed to get on with or what was worthy
of getting on to. They all could perceive the horror of everybody and
everything so no matter what they did--even killing themselves--it would
all be equivalent to meaningless and savagery.

It was good to have this hour of complete silence near the lake
without any sound but the rushing of cars, which also came in inundated
waves, peaked, and died. Still, one would have to hear a language sooner
or later. At times if only he could have a silence, a respite, from his
thoughts to go with his free time to think his recovery would be
expedited.  He thought of his sister.  She had kept her Korean.
Occasionally, even as a teenager, she would mutter off some idea in
Korean to which his mother returned some reply. He had always felt
jealous of this secret language and here he was in Korea but the
language was still a secret to him.

Chapter Five

The social creature that even he was, if he were not to hear a voice
for long even those boats in the lake would have been a discomfiting
image--interspersing his conceptualization of them in depersonalized
momentum. He wanted to call Kwang Sook to hear her voice but also to
cancel his classes. He didn't need so much money. His former boss had
deposited some of the owed money after the issue had gone to the
Department of Labor. He wanted to go back to Seoul but classes were his
equanimity. They personalized his world in a professional and impersonal
manner that gave him fortitude to float through the expanse of his
existential turns where it seemed that there were no other sailors.

Maybe, he thought to himself, he would go into a video pang later
and let drama absorb him in a personal intimacy with a fictional entity
of depth and substance. He had no misgivings. His life was a stunted
one. Still, back in Chongju, he made the call and cancelled his classes.
Then, near the bus terminal, he went to a restaurant. He ordered some
bogum bop, a thick mixture of rice and vegetables that one mixed into a
thick brown gravy that stood off aside on the plate and the appetizer of
kimchee maundu. Alone, eating and reading a Newsweek he pulled out of
his bag, he began to wonder of the lives of those that owned or managed
the restaurant. Their area was shielded only behind sliding doors.
Behind the tables and the chairs, their living area consisted of just
one space. A girl came out and he could see within it clothes drying on
a plastic rack and a small television that was on the floor. Then a man
came out with a baby in his arms. He wore an undershirt and boxer
underwear. The women cooked. Then, after they served Sang Huin a second
helping of kimchee maundoo, they put breakfast on a table for the
family. They all ate together. Like Yang Lin at Toksugum Palace seeing
newlyweds and the wife he should have been, Sang Huin saw his alter ego
in the man. His life was probably limited.  A wife and children pinned
him into a small existence with family commotion and responsibilities.
It floated in non-ambitious swaying like a plastic boat on ripples in a
bathtub. It probably droned on in its unaware and insignificant tedium
through the years, but it had its connections.

Chapter Six

Attempting to thwart his primitive hungers for sex and socialization
(synonymous words of civilization's shaping, but base nonetheless), and
sensing the true vacuous abyss that would exist without learning or
creating, he went into a park that was near the bus station. There, he
worked on his amorphously wordy musical composition that was a bit of
everything and nothing. Still, he told himself that this potpourri was
worthwhile even though really he had his misgivings about it. He told
himself that he needed to test the musical aspects of it on his cello
later that day when he returned to the yogwam.  It was a plan of a
return "home"(whatever that word meant) and a means to contravene his
deviance to Seoul.  It was a self-created urgency to repress his sexual
obsessions and to clothe the animalistic movements and hunger of his
naked soul. To his delight, from previous recitals of Hayden at the
yogwam, it would probably bring to his door an audience of elderly
tenants and one of his more fulfilling connections.

He came upon a crowd of people clustered around an elderly man. The
man was a governmental employee paid as a teacher of Korean traditional
dance. He was promoting the program by a slow and illustrious dance. He
wore the traditional hanbok of the paji and chogori. Sang Huin was
inveigled by the dance but the sun god was putting him to sleep and 15
minutes into the performance he was on a park bench fast asleep. When he
awoke, the crowd that had gathered around the dancer and the dancer
himself were no longer there.  Just as Sang Huin, the boy, had skipped
around the kindergarten teacher's desk, sat down to drink his chocolate
milk with his Graham crackers, and found himself a grown man listening
to a university professor's lecture on biology, so the sunlight of this
day's slight 2:00 descent vaporized the people he had been witnessing no
differently than it had vaporized the dinosaurs myriad afternoons of
myriad centuries ago or the body of his sister that had decomposed in a
park.  It had all gone-gone but where it had gone he couldn't say.

Like a 5 year old, he rubbed his eyes to wake up.  Following an
instinctive response that was a yearning overwhelming his common sense,
he felt the impulse to stretch forth toward Seoul: toward adventure in
the masses and bathing the rational mind in sensual massage. He wanted
meretricious sex. Young men encroached on his mind in droves. Maybe this
obsession, if it were such, was from an inability to communicate in any
other way. He did not mind--well, he did, but what could he do, he
argued, when the irrationality of pleasure seeking sedated one as he
journeyed around alone on the rugged terrain of the Earth. He did not
believe in much platonic constraint. When his hormones were boiling to
overflow he "hauled [his] ass" to Seoul. There, a theatre existed for
meeting and touching men near Chongno Samga Road and he had been told
that there was a gay Turkish bath in the area of Myong Dong. Too much
creative energy would be depleted if he were to lasso the wild bore for
long. Too much craziness would go into creating sense in insensible
passions. Wasn't marriage created to give sense to such passions? Hadn't
this lifetime contract that his parents signed in their marital vows
caught two of life's myriad souls in the idea that they could defy a
changing universe and be as non-changeable as rocks? Hadn't their
confinement of each other in this materialistic American dream become
the incommunicable cries of two strangers tied back to back by weeds
from their many parcels of land after all substantial conversation had
been exhausted? Yet, his liaisons were not exactly more viable versions
of relationships. He did not want to talk to these men nor, as he knew,
would they to him. Ideally he did; but it was just a fleeting expression
or whim.  Reality sang another tune.  There was this day's ticket to a
symphony in Seoul that Kwang Sook had given to him because she couldn't
go.  He had taken it.  He loved symphonies and there were parts of this
day when he told himself that he would go to Seoul for that purpose.
Really, however, he wouldn't have bothered at all had it not been for
the urges of his body anxiously nudging him northward.

He bought another ticket to Seoul and drank milk he obtained from
the bus station vendor while waiting for his designated departure.  The
noxious smell of bus exhausts filled the open cavities of the bus
station. A torn back on a plastic seat seemed to snag his shirt more
than once like a cat's claws.  The wait was not long since a half hour
later he was part of a line to get on board.  This particular flatulent
bus seemed to say his name, Sang Huin, as a feces colored gas, carbon,
exuded from its rear.  Strange ideas like the talking bus and the
clawing chair, in the back regions of the mind, were only experienced by
the lonely and the isolated.  He knew this.  Those who were isolated
were such out of their contempt for the sadistic and hedonistic impulses
that were hidden in smiles.  They were such to protect their own
ingenuous vulnerabilities despite being sociable human creatures; and
they weren't always so firmly in their right minds. The landscape seen
from the moving bus was unremarkable but still the beauty that was there
dazed him into self-reflections. More than the physical response what
did he crave? To be loved and to love was like a dog chasing its tail;
and if his tail were long enough he would have it in the mouth.  He
would have it there in his mouth if the mouth liked the taste of the
tail and the tail the feel of the mouth.  Foolish as he was going to
Seoul once again for his fun, he wasn't a fool.  Most people obeyed
their sexual inclinations as if they were great oracles of wisdom that
would broaden them beyond the limits of themselves in such a primitive
interaction. He couldn't say that he wasn't as they were, but unlike
them, he knew that the whole thing was a mirage for those who couldn't
or didn't know how to build worlds within themselves.  A Newsweek
article had proven to his satisfaction that love was not a splendid
thing.  It was just a four-year addiction at best. The article had
theorized that primitive man needed to stay with the woman long enough
to help with the child's welfare by feeding the creature and its mother
during those years when the baby encumbered the woman from hunting on
her own. He didn't need more than that.

In Kwang Sook's school, Sang Huin had asked the children to draw
verbs next to a series of words they found from his handout. When this
was finished, he would read sentences with those vocabulary words like
"A tall boy hits a ball in the air."     "How many people are there?"
"There is one person," they would say.  "What does he do?"  "He hits?"
"What does he hit?"  "He hits a ball."  "Where is the ball?"  "It is in
the sky."  "What does he look like?"  "He is tall." The younger ones
were so competitive with each other in the games he devised for them as
if beating others in the game of survival were entrenched in human

They had also done English exercises together on the roof where he
had been the military sergeant giving peremptory whims and they had to
jump, run, go to the right, go to the left, etc. at his command.

The boys had been especially fond of him chasing them around trying
to eat them on the roof as he sang, "This is the way we kill a pig, kill
a pig, kill a pig. This is the way we kill a pig so early in the
morning."  This play-acting and making the brutal world seem as nothing
but an innocuous frivolity caused them to squeal like piglets. It was
insignificant wrestling around with the children in a job that did not
take too much talent or knowledge but it was a silly example of love.
He wanted to give that spark of imagination and knowledge just because
it seemed right to give it. Weren't more altruistic connections really
what life was about? And yet if this were the true form of love, he
often asked himself, wouldn't it be so fulfilling that he would give
himself to it completely?

When he arrived at the express bus terminal, he took the subway to
Chongno. Near Pagoda Park, he went to Hardee's . The break from Hanguk
food (particularly kimchee) he found nourishing to his imagination that
craved variety. He wanted to be a vegetarian but at times he thought
that he almost lapped up the grease like a starving dog. When he
finished, he found himself on one of his first safaris to a gay sauna.
He was still unsure how to get there and so he looked down at the
"chito" (map) a fellow hunter at the theatre had drawn for him on the
back cover of his "Expatriate In Korea" resource book one time when he
was at the theater.

Once there, he took off his shoes at the front desk and collected a
key and a toothbrush. Then he went upstairs. After his shower, a brief
phase in the hot whirlpool, and a second cool shower, he put on a robe
from those that were on hangers and went to a hallway of rooms where
orgies were in progress. Some men in the hallway wandered from room to
room, selective of that which most excited them on the tatami mats of
the floors. Others joined shadows of faintly visible figures groping
around in a state of almost complete darkness. For him only lighter
rooms were an option since less illusionary beings were the only meat
and grease he could stomach.  With the barrage of his passions released
in one of those rooms, he became a perfect receiver of transmission.
There was no interference from either psyche or physique. He relaxed on
one of the leather sofas in the lounge with other smokers and those limp
individuals in between engagements. Visions came unto him and he almost
felt holy writing out aspects of Gabriele's life within the fog of his
smoke. Naked bodies in contrast to his, that was now clothed in
underwear, did not distract him. In the next room men bathed themselves
in the whirlpool or heated themselves in the sauna and behind him were
others engaging in what he had done. If human beings were only shadows
passing in and out of memory, which was nothing but the night sky for
such ghosts, what then, he asked himself, were one's dreams? The
fantasies and emotion propelled thought; and thought propelled action.
Surely action was more real and tangible than the hopes and dreams and
yet how could it be such if dreams and emotion conceived action.

Ideas of Gabriele grasped him as if she were more real than he was.
Pages of words created themselves on his lap while above the couch was a
television showing a drama of an ancient Korean period linked with
reverberating melancholic Buddhist melodies. Toward 6 o'clock, he was
still there--and for his excesses his underwear was stolen off of his
body when he was performing on someone else.  He wasn't sure exactly how
it happened. His head hurt; and he felt a nausea concerning his life. He
left wishing that he were ten again gaining the rapture of a millefleur
morning of dandelions patterned into a greener fabric of grass after the
evening's rain and exploring a more oceanic landscape with his sister as
they splashed through an alien terrain in their rain boots. He wished
for the time when she existed long before her attraction to older
married men like her boss-long before her attraction to men at all. He
reassured himself that he wasn't completely bad, that he was a caring
person who did not harm others even with the knowledge that there was no
real right or wrong on the planet, and that innocence hadn't left him
entirely.  He told himself that he was innocent in many ways, if not an
outright fool, since he had shown himself to be kind and easily taken
advantage of in business (he would have continued to tolerate only
getting two-thirds of his salary so that the other teachers would get
paid had it not been for the fact that he stopped paying his secretaries
as well and began to rehire new ones when the old ones quit).  When he
arrived in Chongno Samga again his pain did not abate. He went to a
pharmacy. The woman at the pharmacy was a grandmotherly type and a
little boy sat on a stool in front of him. She asked what he wanted. He
told her in his babyish Korean. She asked how many aspirin he wanted. He
told her six. She asked him other things. He told her that he was an
American and could not say much anything in Korean. When he was leaving
the boy told him, "Good-by" in English. The Grandmother laughed warmly.
Sang Huin felt pleasure from this little minute of his life as if all
sweet and little moments were not gone altogether; and his nausea from
believing that all human beings perceived each other as a voracious
fulfilling of appetites diminished.

From the cannibalism of sexual excess, he ate a salad at Wendy's
restaurant  despite its exorbitant price and the one plate serving rule.
It was a nice respite from eating too much of the dumpling snack of
kimchee maundoo. The thought of eating meat did not agree with him.  He
shoved down some aspirin with his chocolate frosty and stared out of the
window.  It was past 6:30 and this area of Chongno Samga was already
riveting in  youthful crowds.  In a few hours young men would bee
vomiting on the sidewalk for their alcoholic excess as he had done on
Uchiro Samga after coming out of the sauna. He hurryingly got a yogwam.
He turned on AFKN, the American military channel and saw a bit of a
movie on Franklin Delano Roosevelt while he pulled out a suit jacket and
a tie that he had folded away in his book bag.  Then he got into a taxi
and went to the Sejong Cultural Center. His seat was located in the
middle of the auditorium.  As he sat down his cigarettes fell out of his
front pocket and as he picked them up he noticed the blind man he had
seen before in the subway seated with his dog in the same row. Time had
made him think that the person had just been a flitting fantasy but
there he was.  It was a basic instinct of the lonely human psyche to
wish for meaning and connection in such events as if God would move
heaven and hell to give him a companion. He put the cigarettes into the
slit of his pack and then glanced over to his left in the hope that no
one had noticed his clumsiness.  A man that looked like his sister's
boss was seated next to him.  It was a slight resemblance but still it
horrified him.  When that "thing" had been declared "not guilty" in
reference to his sister's murder despite all the evidence that the
prosecution had brought forward, he had fainted for a few seconds.
Then, in a slow dizziness, some feelings had assembled themselves and
then he had begun to think that he wanted death; and then he had just
wanted out of America.

Chapter 7

During an intermission, while others were leaving, the stranger got
up and left with his dog. Sang Huin, on impulse, followed. Without
yearning for a cigarette, he lit one in the lobby and waited at the
entry of the bathroom.  If he were troubled by the peculiarity of his
actions, he was only marginally reassured by the fact that they were not
witnessed.  His actions seemed that of a stalker although this seeming,
this appearance, was only ruminated on by himself.  His motives,
however, were nebulous in this desire; and this inability to understand
why he was seeking this individual was a troubling factor.  It was the
impulsiveness of one lacking social skills who suddenly drives up to a
school playground to form intimacies, discards the body in abhorrence
and disbelief over being the perpetrator of the crime, and in a half
hour finds himself to be a pedophile and a murderer.  And yet he wasn't
stalking a child but a man and he wasn't running on the energy of sexual
conquest and hate, but just running away from loneliness. If this
innocuous action were stalking, all humans, he told himself, were
stalkers.  Without question, he was so desperate to disrupt his
isolation like the pensive ruminations of a mute circus gypsy alone in
the back of his tent.  He was so anxious to escape his incommunicable
thoughts through friendship, or the hope of it, that he was ready to
shoot it out randomly to whomever caught his eye.  Many selfish whims
constituted an attraction, but he told himself that this was not the
making of a stalker.  Then the stranger and his dog came out.

"Anyong hashimnika," greeted Sang Huin as he touched the man's arm
so that he would know he was addressing him.

"Anyong haseyo" (informal: peace, you do).  They spoke loudly
because of the noise of the crowds loitering and coming and going from
the restrooms.

"Yongo mal ha su isumnika?"

"Yes, I can speak English. Can I help you?"

It was interesting for him to be thought of as an American
instantaneously. Sang Huin found it refreshing to not have someone give
him that surprise and grimace for being a Korean without a language.

"No. Good symphony. Do you like Rimsky?"

"Rimsky-Korsakov.  Yes, not all of the music is Rimsky's but they
were playing music from that composer earlier. He is Russian, one of the
best, I think."  Sang Huin smiled at the acquaintance and then realized
that his smile wouldn't pierce through the sunglasses.  Unable to let
his benign nature penetrate through the plastic, he again thought of
himself as somewhat equivalent to a stalker.  He felt nervous.

""Would you like a cigarette? We've got ten minutes." He thought of
the words and instruments which human beings employed to break from
their innate states of emptiness; and the connections sought from
attractions that would be forsaken if the experiences seemed shallow and
there was an assumption that no major connections would evolve from

Sang Huin crunched the pack for a bit of noise and the stranger
took one of the cigarettes which he then aimed toward the hiss of the
emerging flame that Sang Huin provided with the click of his lighter.
The blind man inhaled a couple times but then coughed in perpetual
rhythms like the beats of a drum.  The seeing-eye dog gnarled its mouth
the best it was able to do and growled importunely.  "He doesn't like,"
said the blind man barely able to get out his idea from his stanched
breath. Sang Huin thought of Sungki's syntax which also lacked object
pronouns in "You must all eat."

"Is there an ashtray? I'll put this out.  I'm sorry I wasted it,"
said the blind man.

"No problem," said Sang Huin as he took the cigarette and smashed
it into an ashtray a few feet away and then walked back to where he was.
"I feel a bit foolish." He chortled for a couple of seconds nervously.
"I was seated alone, really, not liking that feeling as much as I
thought I would; and then I noticed you. I've seen you before on a
subway: you and your dog.  It was a few days ago. You got out shortly
after I did in Tonggyo-dong."

"Do you stay in a hotel in that area?"

"No, but a few times when there were demonstrations at Yongsei
University I went there and watched the police and the tear gas from the
fourth floor of a building that has a pastry shop. I guess that is a bit
strange, huh?" The stranger filled air and space with a feigned smile
and a nod, not knowing what to say.  "No; I live in Chongju," continued
Sang Huin, "but I come to Seoul as often as I can. I'm American. At
least I say I am.  My friends call me Shawn in America but my friends
here call me by my real name, Beck Sang Huin."  He knew that he didn't
really have friends in either place.

"Saeng Sob," said the acquaintance.  They shook hands although both
were doubtful that they could concatenate a conversation.  When the man
said his name, Saeng Seob, Sang Huin thought of the boy in Kwang Sook's
school who also had this name. He was in his class; but Kwang Sook said
that the last year he had to drop out of her school completely after
going through more surgeries from being hit by a truck.  That accident
had happened a year earlier. Even during the brief months Sang Huin was
familiar with him there was yet another surgery for his legs and feet.
Sang Huin brought him toys every few days. During this time he hated
having the poor boy languish in the bed--skin from his buttocks used to
supplement the thin blackish skin of his legs and the pins in his toes.
It was the least he could do.

Hadn't there been a time when he and his sister were driven to the
home of their Grandma Vera and rather than connecting to her chose to
run across the street to a nearby park and feel alive with the swing
against the winds as their parents socialized? Hadn't there been a time
when he knew the brilliance of grass poking through the crevices of his
bare feet? Then puberty came and there was an aching need for other
people. The aching was incessant.

"I guess you are here with friends and family.  I should let you get
back to them and the performance."

"We're here alone," said Saeng Sob, " but I guess we should go back
in before the second part begins."  Sang Huin did not know if he was
included in the conceptualization of "we."

"Do you live in Tonggyo-dong?," asked Sang Huin creating a mental
barricade to stop the closure.

" No, but I work and study at the university." He paused and then
filled in the silence. "My cousin is a dean in the mathematics
department. I work part-time at Yongsei as his receptionist so that is
probably why you saw us there," said the man speaking of himself in

"And you take classes?" asked Sang Huin.

"Sometimes," said Saeng  Sob.

"Maybe we can get something to eat after the performance if you
aren't busy," said Sang Huin.

"Maybe.  They're probably ready to start." Sang Huin and the blind
Saeng Seob returned to their seats.

Then, after the performance, he cornered him in the ambiguity of a
"maybe" which a strong will could distort to affirmation. Such
enthusiasm could not easily be negated especially if it came from an
American and soon he was with the blind Seong Seob  answering questions
about his life in the US and eating some cold noodles in soup that was
as flavorless as water. The meal tasted like a cold and bland version of
Ramen noodles  ("Ramyen" in Korean) but he was told that it was not
Ramyen.  He didn't like the food and yet his closed lips twitched up
smilingly as if the opposite were true.  Deferential deception seemed
the most cordial solution.  Through children observing it in his society
in various forms it was passed down through the generations by
imitation.  And as humans had and in interactions proliferated these
tactics of coexistence to the young that were successful enough to keep
the species, so far, from self-destruction, what
did he in his short life know that was a better substitute?  In
reinventing etiquette, it was hard to know if the new behavior was
better or worse than the old one in the abstract.  The only measurement
would be the reaction of others.  To eat and smile while hating what was
being eaten and to succeed at it pleased him. It made him feel that he
was a decent person.   In that minute it picked him up on a wave of
optimism that distracted the lonely, mundane, and stunted life that he
chartered for himself.  Sang Huin spoke frankly about why he had come to
Korea.  He had been so lost after his sister's death, his father's
suicide, and the exacerbated disconnection from the robotic and
perfunctory movements and rambling of his mother month after month.  He
had to break away and become acquainted with his heritage the way Seong
Seob, as much as he was capable of, had to flee from the cousin and then
him, as perverted as he was, to end those 20+ years of disparaged
containment.  Both had to chart independent lives exempt of family and
without the possibility of ever having one; but really was that so bad -
to be ungrounded and to float on winds of circumstance.  In the right
perspective it was liberation.

Sang Huin wondered what this name, Seng Seob, meant (not that he
knew the meaning of his own) and why he was so excited to be with him.
They agreed that they would just be together for an hour.  That hour
became two and then it was the rest of the evening.  They drank soju, a
mild equivalent of sake.  Late into the evening Sang Huin had the waiter
calculate the tab and then suggested that they continue drinking
elsewhere.  Both were drunk at this time and drunkenness was making them
thirsty.  He and Saeng Sob returned to the yogwam with a case of beer
they purchased at a convenience store.

They slept together. Naked and awakening from sleep, Sang Huin
listened to the breathing of his friend. For the first time since his
sister's death he did not feel alone. Later on in the morning when the
light began to shine into the room he continued his prose, every now and
then looking at the presence that slept there as well as the imposition
of his dog.

                              Book Two:

                  The Book of Gabriele and Sang Huin

      "Thought is the idea of extension and extension the
      embodiment of thought" --Baruch Spinzoa

      "Mind+entity=truth  Sensory perception+things=opinion"

Chapter Eight

Hunched over a TV tray, with the baby locked into her lap in one
hand and snuff locked into a cheek, she wrote her story. Occasionally
she would write while dribbling brown into the open portal of her empty
beer can. She needed her portals for they led her, like a child, into
animistic realms far from the mundane of soiled diapers or the powdering
of a bottom as repulsive, to her, as perfume scented women.  She was
dressed in nothing but a dark bathrobe of a bosky fabric and like a
soldier in military fatigues, she blended in with the subdued light of a
tepid morning, which stumbled onto the floor of her trailer like a
collapsing drunk.  Every few moments while she wrote, her thoughts
became distracted by the hail that besieged the roof and walls or by the
screams of the baby which made her glower whenever he spat out his
pacifier to become the self-centered squealer that she knew to be the
base nature propelling human actions and society's disarray.  Richard
Dawkins' idea that one was born selfish but did not have to stay that
way was an adage that, with the energy she had in her glowering eyes,
she wanted to etch onto him if only her eyes were lasers where her
commandments could cauterize the human brain.  It seemed to her that
Jehovah, had he existed, would have glowering eyes no different than
hers and such lasers would have gone simply into the malleable substance
of the human brain instead of searing it into stone. With aversion to
reading anything printed on paper let alone etched in stone so acute it
would be more sensible. Had Piaget really studied beings such as this,
she thought, he would have seen them as the making of Wall Street and
the thunder of armies.  She listened more intensely to the hail that was
like a machine gun with rubber coated pellets.  She imagined herself
riding on a tank through a desert and into Baghdad half-naked and
exposed, waving her red white and blue brassiere from the opened hatch
of the tank.  Yes, she admitted, she needed portals.  She needed her
exits.  She needed a change, a respite, from the monotony of motherhood
that was sinking her into it like a hole.  The baby was a gift, and more
a choice and for these points a sacred responsibility to which, she told
herself, she would rectify past grievances that her parents, and even
Aunt Peggy herself, had done to her.  She would never engage in the
treachery that had flattened her out under its tank when she was so
young (although, she had to admit, the demise of early sensitivities had
made her, in such early childhood, reconstruct a new and indomitable
self). As she thought this she noticed a spider crawling onto her hand,
which held the pen.  When the hurricane of all the air from her lungs
was not enough to release it from her palm, she did not drop the pen.
She decided to look on the intruder as a lecturer on persistency and to
gain inspiration from it. She knew that once she finished writing her
piece, the spider would be smashed, but she believed that the act should
be performed with conscience. Gabriele did not subscribe to the idea of
civilized man that life was ranked into a hierarchy of importance. A
human certainly could not get by without killing, or picking up killed
produce from a grocery shelf, but the idea that there should be a real
distinction between a can of beans and the entrails of a local senator
seemed absurd, although she did not think that being put in an electric
chair for having eaten her local senator ranked very high up there in
the chances of probability.  Yes, she again told herself, the child was
a gift and a responsibility but she would not dote him.  The world
flattered itself that doting mothers carrying their worms to the baby
birds exuded such a profound love by this thoughtless emotional instinct
of proud and adoring pampering.  They thought that pampering the
pleasure-seeking savage was the acme of nurturing motherhood and the
making of good human beings.  She thought to herself that such mindless
bitches, doting as Aunt Peggy had done with her children, were an
embarrassment to this word love.  Love in its purest sense (what little
one was humanly capable of) would be a selfless caring of another
without such instincts to keep one's genes replicating for all eternity.
It was not suffocating one's children in dependency so that one could
have the role of mommy to avoid rolelessness and void.  It was not
needing a child.  Being a doting mother was as far from her
instinctually as those bizarre apathetic ones who could toss a child on
a relative or an ex-husband himself before joining the military.  The
other day, on page 2 of the Ithaca Times she saw that there was an
article on some such oddity although much bigger stories with more
bizarre and sadistic ramifications were buried each day on page 1,999 of
the New York Times. She would always read voraciously and thereby find
their cadavers. "Piaget, Piaget, go away, go away," she mumbled
inaudibly to herself slurring and babbling the consonants and vowels as
if she were now beginning to imitate the language of her son

Her calligraphy was composed of letters that were large, circular,
and loosely connected. The sentences contained at least one or two words
scratched out with others sustained above them. She considered herself a
scholar when it came to writing and so imaginative works, in such a
medium, did not come easily. Still she could not fathom in herself such
a shallow stream of sentiments that would actually cause her to repeat
the words of the lullaby, "Rock a by, baby, in a tree top" nor hum even
the notes of the lullaby symphony of Brahms. For this reason, she
allowed her back to ache and a slow-moving spider to climb along her
hand to finish an alternative lullaby--a truth beyond a myth although
she did not delude herself by thinking it other than her own personal
concoction at a different mythology the way Psalm 104 might have seemed
original long after the Great Hymn of Aten was written in Ancient Egypt.
In constructing another paragraph she began to ask herself whether or
not she had ended the story.  She wasn't sure how one would know about
such things that were so lacking of scientific or mathematic
certainties.  Then she began to wonder if she should have written it
with a zoomorphic emphasis (maybe a bovine God standing there in its
pasture cognizant of nothing, wholly holy in the innocence of stupidity
and lack of aggressive tendencies--great virtues to which no other gods
comported).  She stretched her large muscular framed back; heard a thump
on the bookshelf but, in her state of concentration, she dismissed it;
dropped the baby back into its crib, and took the top of a TV tray off
its legs. In place of the baby, she sat the tray upon her lap providing
a close-up foundation for her manuscript.

The hailstorm that was once like artillery against her flimsy
enclave now seemed a milder sleet tapping and scraping the ceiling and
walls.  This type of weather was a bit like the tapping and scraping of
her cat, Mouse, clinging and banging its body on the screen of the door
in the hope of getting in during the times she threw him out, and she
imagined that it would go on this way 1990 times. She listened intensely
to some of its 1990 scraping taps, tapings of "the year of our lord"
which also happened to be the year of the American war against
Mesopotamia.  The sleet was mixed in the wind; and for those who resided
in warmth and even those who ran through it in the hope of finding
shelter such falling crystal, that was once an ethereal gas, couldn't
have been anything other than splendor.  At least, in a diminished way,
it was for her who could only hear and imagine it within the ruminations
of her cynicism and maternal gloom.

For a couple of distracted seconds she contemplated her isolated
existence in an obscure trailer park in Ithaca, New York within the
middle of winter in contrast to the crowds of Iraqi and American
soldiers ready to ignite the deserts the way crowded rats, too
overpopulated, too irascible, and too conscious of the movements of
other rats, kill each other off.  The whole thing should have made her
feel leery: a single woman near the outskirts of the city limits all
alone with a baby, hearing banging against her home and listening
intermittingly to the news on her radio about the Persian Gulf War.  She
did have knowledge of Judo and fully believed that any violent intruders
would regret trespassing on her space but she knew that it did not
protect her from the fact that she was a tenuous mortal, a woman with a
baby in a flimsy trailer, and that this trailer was in an inauspicious
location in one of the more violent countries on the planet.  To
compound matters, she didn't have any friends or much society except for
her bovine-thinking neighbor, Rita.  That woman, who called herself
Lily, was like a lackadaisical grass-snacking cow right before slaughter
time.  She had been a former group-home girl at a home for
schizophrenics and manic-depressives although she recently graduated to
semi-independent living.  For Gabriele, her intrusive presence often cut
through the black gauze of isolation that could cover every aperture of
one's senses prompting her to feel an extreme numbness.  But, apart from
this mental sustenance, isolation was something that she thrived on like
a light hating moss deep in damp and obscure crevices. The walls seemed
to shudder in the winds but she did not mind the cold. She felt that it
was comforting and when it crept in it seemed to be tangible and come
through the cracks around the windows and the door like waves. The baby,
however, was another matter.  It sneezed out into the cold.

The previous day he was crying in part from the cold and the need to
be suckled. And she did suckle him occasionally although, less
euphemistically, she saw it as him being allowed to devour her.  She did
this to pass on her nutrients and antibodies, although giving milk and
having a child use her for her tit repulsed and stiffened her posture at
times like a soldier at a machine gun in a trench and at other times
like a soldier in a queue waiting for inspection. This act more than any
other was a reminder of the fact that she was a bit like all other
women: a female animal there to be bred and to nurture the continuum of
her breed. She fed him and dressed him even more warmly, then, but it
was to no avail. Lacking options, she repelled her repulsion toward the
rock-a-by song by telling herself that it was the collective culture in
the earliest of all primitive American, if not western minds, and so
inescapable in a sense. On that day she brought herself to hum a few
bars while rocking him according to the melody of the song; but he
frowned and looked at her skeptically if babies were capable of
skepticism, and so she had to speed up the movement. The faster and
harder she rocked him the more he seemed to enjoy it, baby-laughing that
one monotone squeal and slobbering all over her. At that time of such
Pavlovian drooling she wondered to herself belatedly if having him there
to seize her day was worthwhile but the squealing gave her a sense that
it was. This roller-rocking of her arms was at first enjoyable because
his squeals of euphoria were delightful to listen to but soon she found
them to be a tiring repetition and so she gently tossed him back into
the crib which inadvertently caused him to cry once again.

This was a new approach following a few minutes of having him "swig
[his] bottle." "Unlike present day Ithaca, in the land of Ancient
Atlantis," she read after raising the baby up to the tray like a cold
piece of meat and then squashing the insect into her composition, "there
was harmony;" and even when he "puked"-she would never say 'spit-up'
because it was not so--she recited a few paragraphs of what she had
written while the vomit seeped into her bathrobe. Her bold attempt to be
indifferent to such an inauspicious start to the morning was becoming a
poorly constructed fa?ade for her determination was crumbling like a
desiccating sand castle. The smell of the vomit and all of the baby
smells bothered her.  As her body fidgeted, which in turn caused the cat
to bury itself behind the lowest area of the bookshelf (although this
time avoiding the tripping on a ceramic dish) she contemplated this
euphemism, "spit-up."  The term didn't matter in public, she argued; but
to oneself, she thought, one had to be honest.  Puke was puke, and she
had a tale to tell, and her child needed to listen and she needed to
resist shoving her child back into the crib to change out of her

As one of her long arms stretched and she grabbed one of his baby
bibs that was folded on an end table, dabbing herself with it, she
thought about how the two of them were family because of a sexual
indiscretion.  Fate had backed into her earlier thinking that family was
nothing but war games.  At one time she believed that husband and wife
soldiers of the same side often acted as if they were enemies; and as
they played with each other they often forgot about the children,
inadvertently or deliberately rolled their tanks over them, or abandoned
them entirely to pursue a second honeymoon.  At one time she believed
that all good soldiers (all military families) did the same thing as
this. Her pregnancy (fate) had flattened her notion that an individual
only had herself in this world.  It had rolled over her idea that a
collective unit was a neurotic delusion like the concept of God.  She
had been rolled on by a tank a second time and had been forced to
reassess earlier conclusions.  Motherhood was beginning to make her
fully aware of the extent by which there was an interdependence of the
social members of society and she was beginning to think of her son as a
gift from God since the birth of a baby was such a miracle. And here
they were tucked away in their home in a scantily lit morning.  The
trailer was the fortress from artillery shells, taps, and scrapes.  For
a moment she listened to its splendor with her usual intensity: the
taping of it, the refrigerator mysteriously clicking into life with a
hum slightly like a ticking heart of a great body in hibernation, and
the heater that didn't work so well exhaling in dreaming snores through
the mouths of floor vents. She listened until it all abruptly ended by
his cries. She then thought that she was becoming overly sentimental if
not completely and loathsomely maudlin in the scramble of impressions
that spewed out from her subconscious.  She wondered if she could shut
him up in time to perform aerobics with the television instructor.

The child she had given birth to had been like a dragon of the womb,
pushing its young being of fiery hell out of her. This was an image that
Gabriele conjured up in her imagination as the bathrobe, that was the
only thing separating her from complete nakedness, began to have such an
acrid and fetid stench. She changed his diaper and lodged a pacifier
into his mouth. "Unlike present day Ithaca, in the land of Ancient
Atlantis, which the residents of this small island called Antinomy,
there was harmony." She again recited and adlibbed the beginning of her
story as a wild idea of cracking her inattentive child's head like a nut
crazily passed through her consciousness, quickly diffusing and
departing like a bad smell. "Once upon a time they were the happiest of
people glowing from ear to ear almost as cute as you do, Adagio, on
those rare times that you actually do smile.  Their smiles were not
inane and senseless as giddy American teenagersEno,no-Americans as a
whole really before they have their heart attacks from the stress of
competing for more and more or the greasy food they clog into their
blood vessels or from fright at possibly being blown away when some
stressed out nut comes into a fast food joint with a semi-automatic.
Their kindness was genuine because valuing their link to the energy that
radiated into them, competing for conveniences and pleasures was not
their priority. And they weren't just happy and nice but these residents
of Atlantis or Antinomy (I give you, Mr. Adagio, permission to use
either word---either word depending on Adagio's silly whims). And they
weren't just happy and nice but they were also resourceful.  The
Antinomians when they took a crap did not have diapers to catch it.
They preferred the natural way of letting it drop, and dry out a bit
under the sun god, so that they could make bowls and pitchers from the
dung heap.  When they climbed coconut trees for the fruit, they could
get up the trees in three seconds.  Likewise when they hunted their wild
boars they didn't need spears, little man.  They just ran and pounced on
the animals. Now you may ask how they did such things so well so let me
answer the query of your inquisitive mind. These superhuman people were
everything good: kind and gentle, strong and smart because they weren't
arrogant.  They had no civilization that told them to flush dung down
the toilet, and no amicable smiles that are part of business
transactions.  They were natural, ingenuous people who meditated on the
energy emanated by the sun and this link of themselves to natural forces
prompted them to be more than ordinary men. The sun god liked those who
meditated on the energy he supplied them so he gave them a boost-a bit
of caffeine if you will. That's the way it was, Little Man, in maybe the
8th century B.C." She knew that if he were to squeal during the story
this behavior would be most inhospitable to the story telling host, and
so as a preemptive move she used crazed gestures that would get his
attention.  By getting his attention she could lure him into a story
that had the potential of putting him to sleep.  The name on his birth
certificate was Nathaniel, a name she liked but regretted having given
to him. It was her hope that the nickname, "Adagio," would, like magic,
get him to be calm if not elicit from the child a rather scholastic
attentiveness within his infantile limitations. She often played for him
the classical music, "Scaramouche-modere" by Darius Milhaud. It was her
favorite adagio if indeed it was an adagio at all.  It was adagio enough
for her and she believed that was all that mattered.

She was seated on a director's chair looking at the slight
movements of her child's body and wondering why its mouth could not be
equally delicate.  She silently called it the Spanish word of
"criatura."  Her extended family had been a mixture of Germans and
German-Argentineans, a passionate and passionless crowd who often did
not know if they should call her Gabriela or Gabriele and so they had
been reluctant to say anything at all to her.   She kissed her son on
the forehead but this action provoked vehement cries of cacophony.
Assessing that her son had reactions no different than any hard
Visigoth, she ignored his bellowing voice and continued the story.
"Listen to this, little man.  Concentrate.  Scream as you will, but
concentrate! They, the Antinomians of Atlantis, considered themselves a
loose conglomeration of a tribe and did not have any inclination for a
central government for governments are only needed to control malevolent
men. When the scattered men unified for monthly reproductive sessions
with their estranged spouses to ravage their fluids on their--quote-
unquote 'their'--women, they were not protected under roofs from the
elements but did the banging on the backs of horses.  Uncomfortable, you
say.  I'd agree: uncomfortable but quick and quick ejaculations were
what they wanted. This doing it in the open was a rather brave act,
wouldn't you say, considering that they could be struck down by
lightning should the sun god deem them as gaining more hedonistic
pleasure, or spending too much of their thoughts in activities not
suited to gentle, uncivilized men. They did not marry in the auspices of
a sacrament-oriented fiend from the heavens but acknowledged the
vulgarity of their intersections not in affected guilt but by cleansing
and anointing their horses afterward. They weren't selfish creatures
apart from those 15-minute rides and so they didn't have this wish to
hide themselves in the affectation of matrimony and love like modern men
and they did not need to hide themselves in clothes.  The land of
Antinomy was warm, you know.  There would have been a different reality
if Antinomy had been a little island off of our beloved motherland of
Antarctica.  Anyhow, in the land of Atlantis or Antinomy a child was
born in this manner and grew up not with Mother or Father but in
independence and its relationship with the Earth and the sun. She, the
Earth, would find him. She would tell him that he was hers. He would
know that there was no purpose to being alive other than living and
being grateful for life. Of course, in modern societies like Ithaca,
Adagio, you have no merit at all-you aren't even thought as worthy of
the respect of an insect-unless you have a job and are in one way or
another part of the Great Factory but not in Atlantis, my little buddy.
No, not there. There, to be without aim was accepted since the meaning
of life was in life itself: vibrant energy for no reason bursting forth
for no reason as fireworks in a desert."

For a couple seconds she thought about how any common criminal or
intruder to her domain would be immediately repelled from trespassing by
her strange oral dissertations. Perhaps he or she would find himself
discomfited to find logic and honesty in such an eccentric array and
wouldn't know what to make of it: Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Marquis
de Sade of Paris. Such a person would assume that she had been dropped
on her head as an infant in a most dramatic way not knowing the reality
that, in early girlhood, she had been flattened by a tank.

"The skies clothed the babies of these ingenuous savages just as it
did their naked mothers and fathers. As I said before, no clothes and no
shame for them for they were kind and their consciences were pure.  They
spoke the truth as they perceived it at the moment they spoke it and no-
one resented each other because they understood that each was just
trying to assemble ideas together the way prisoners in a dungeon used
anything as platforms that would edge them closer to the window."  At
this point she did not understand her own writing so she adlibbed
entirely.  "A given baby had the world as his own.  He did not cry in
the night like a baby in need of a night light since all the books
created from previous centuriesEall those mysterious words in all the
pages from the books created from previous centuries and shipped to
AtlantisEall those mysterious words in all the pages from the books of
'truth' since the beginning of time (books seen as irrelevantly
reverent, and maliciously deceiving fables) were burnt each night in his
world; and this did add a small twinkle in his eyes.  Yet it was Mother
Earth who cradled him, after his abandonment at birth and nourished him-
-"  Composed pell-mell and visibly entangled in nonsense, she felt that
the latter part of her myth was ruined in sententiousness and knew that
she was no longer believing that their words had any truth whatsoever.
That being the case, she stopped babbling.  When she saw that the baby
was asleep she put him in the crib, disrobed, took a shower, and got
dressed. She turned on the television but realizing it was Sunday and
that church programming had usurped her exorcise regimen she felt
disappointed. Not knowing what to do with the day, she looked out of the
window for a period of minutes that seemed like hours.  A car came
through the trailer park lot mixing the water with dirt.  One nearby
puddle looked like chocolate milk.  She thought to herself that she
needed to warm some baby formula.  Instead, she sat down in her
director's chair, stared out into nothingness, and listened to tapping
that seemed more like rain. Her thoughts rambled on: "800,000 African
children die from dysentery each year and yet the news is about the
continuing air strikes against Iraq as if American victory were
something other than a foregone conclusion."  At least, the bully that
it was, America was a democracy and Gabriele, as hard as she tried,
could not keep herself from feeling a bit fortunate to live there.  She
found it somewhat comforting that the murky morality of such engagements
was debated by senators and talk show hosts.  Protecting Kuwait or
securing the free flow of oil seemed an easy riddle to figure out.
Prior to the war, what American had ever known of the existence of
Kuwait outside of geography teachers?  Her idea was not so novel. It was
the same type of thought of commonplace dissenters but, after examining
the idea, it was also that of her own. This was her last thought as she
fell asleep.

She dreamed that her son was the neighbor woman, Rita (who thought
of herself as Lily), with blonde hair and glasses, and that a nuclear
bomb had gone off somewhere nearby Ithaca--maybe Salem for the strangers
on the street, bewildered and whispering to themselves, kept mentioning
the name of that city.  The city of Ithaca was filled with rumors that
the event had occurred and the rumors were loud in an atmosphere where
everything else was silent and seemed to take on a texture of emptiness.
The rumors seemed tactile and to have a visible substance that was ochre
but thick as a heavy fog. Although they were no louder than whispers,
these whispers were cries of bewilderment albeit softer than agony since
they could not be fully articulated for lack of any definite knowledge.

"They have shut us off from knowing," said one young woman

"Sure," said a man with an Appalachian draw. "The damn people up
there higher than God! They don't want us to know what has happened for
fear that we'll fear others are comun'... maybe make some phone calls!"

"Are we to believe this craziness we are hearing? We live in
civilized times. This can not be," said another female voice. Her accent
was of a New Jerseyite.

A red headed woman, next to Gabriele on a street corner, said to a
grayish woman that looked like a cat, "If the president is with them on
this it is true." The words in the typical New York accent for some
reason seemed the most tangible element of the dream, greater than its
visionary components, and the most worthy truth. Gabriele backed away
from the cat, and wished for death rather than to bear this horror where
not even the surety of the death of thousands or millions could be
known, whether or not the people of Ithaca would eventually be radiated,
or whether or not there was indeed a conspiracy to keep them ignorant
that more missiles were coming. "Let others die but not me; let other
cities perish but not ours" was a dominant thought in everyone's head.
It was so loud and everyone could hear it no matter how hard they
pretended otherwise. She loathed that wretched instinct of self-interest
that was innate in a being to make it survive, prosper, and propagate
dynastically.  She thought to herself that survival of the fittest truly
played out in all things and selfishness was its impetus. The meek, when
not uneducated and famished, were so sensitive to injustice and
disparity that they became neurotic and disturbed.  The truly meek were
too gentle and reticent to muster the selfishness to bring forth
offspring, and they inherited nothing outside of their own coffins.  She
also loathed that small portion of her sociable will, which stooped to
what they were saying, now, with complete conviction in the streets.
She heard one elderly man in particular.  He was like an older version
of someone in her past but the dream, which was a reality of its own,
did not directly make that correlation. "Come on now.  Let's not panic.
It's been hot in Salem with no wind.  Maybe the radiation will just stay
there.  What little breeze there is probably is just in the upper
stratosphere.  My son's a weatherman, you know."  The elderly man in
thick glasses pointed out Gabriele's Lily shaped son as his own. "He
says that not feeling a breeze means no breeze at all except way up
there in the stratosphere. The radiation is below that.  If it moves
slightly it will go to New York City.  It will never come this way.  You
can count on it so let's not panic."  It was a hope for self-
preservation.  It was a hope of the deaths of millions of people rather
than themselves who resided in Ithaca. She saw the cat woman crying and
a man petting her back.  He was comforting her compassionately; but like
one who does not wish to spend resources on exploratory surgery to find
out whether or not the lymphatic cancer had spread in an aging pet, the
man turned away from the woman. Gabriele could see him pursuing his own
private minutes of self-pity and rage deep in lost, silent eyes.

Then the cat rubbed itself against her face and she awakened,
recalling that the elderly man in the dream was a distorted version of
the lover who had made her into this child's mother. She had not been
meek when she went to Houston to pursue a graduate degree.  She had
hungered after the assistant professor because he had been as
inaccessible as Antarctica.  She had successfully obtained him and this
was due to the fact that people loved those of a strong will who seemed
immortal in inexhaustible energy, swinging their machetes beyond
diffidence and forging paths and realities boldly.  This sort of energy
being erotic to them, they were attracted, mesmerized, and orphic to the
id?e fixe, which was nothing other than everlasting youthful vigor. The
assistant professor, yearning for immorality, had coupled with her. It
had been a successful wish and a successful coupling because from it she
had gotten pregnant. With her sleeve, she wiped her face that sparkled
in greasy sweat, and then gently cradled the cat to her face. The cat
scratched her and leaped away to where it once again hid itself behind
the books.

Gabriele's cheek bled but still she did not kill the cat. She
didn't know the reason her hands, pulsating in rushes of vengeful
energy, did not catch it and crush it in her fingertips. At that moment
she did not know her reasons for anything.  She tried to stop the
bleeding with the back of her hand, for the bib near her feet was
unusable since it was fuming in vomit.   As she looked at the swab of
blood that was there on her hand she felt a void careen into her (or
herself careening into the void), heard a parents' declaration to depart
from her, and again felt the impact of being rolled on by a tank. She
imagined the cat deliberately paralyzing itself in the actions of the
prey it had often witnessed.  She imagined it praying to the earth for a
delay of its execution and subsequent decomposition by having the earth
force compassion on Gabriele, the executioner.  She imagined  it praying
to the earth that magically brought it into life to shrink its size into
something so much smaller than a cat in order to be at all.  She did not
know why it happened. She just did not kill the cat but instead watched
it masquerade itself as dead.  Gabriele picked up the cat by the neck
and the four eyes met.  The cat did not swipe.  It concentrated on
cowardly prayers and of remaining limp.  Gabriele tossed this other
"criatura."  It landed on top of a book on Freud on the lowest part of
her bookshelf.

Chapter Nine

The reasons for the specific elements of a myth (the cryptic reason
why a given culture might have chosen a serpent god or the son of god
over the sun god) are ineffable, and all attempted explanations of a
myth are mythical. Scholars of myths compare religions to find that
spiritual element that links and validates the human search (that search
to find that which is everlasting within the brevity of a human's
lifespan); and historians of recorded cultures thread together
implication, meaning, and motive from a few tangible and often random

The myth of Aten came from the Eighteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt.
For over 1500 years Ancient Egypt practiced polytheism with each town
having its own god. Usually such gods were animal gods as was the case
with the cat-goddess, Bast of Bubastis, but many of the towns found that
once they attached the word "Re," the commonest name for the sun god, it
enhanced the denotation so that local gods became more ubiquitous and
more deserving of reverence. In the case of the falcon god, Re-Harakhti,
a name change was given to It (the great It) that contained more overt
connotations. Not only was the word, "Re" put before the regular name of
the falcon-god, but engravings depicted It with the sun god above It's

The pharaoh, Akhenaten, in his quest for the one sun god, Aten,
disliked focusing all of his energies toward military ventures that
would have decimated the bellicose Nubian-like creatures and stray
Hittites that fell onto his shores like waves.  He knew that he could
decimate them if continual efforts were applied the way one wipes away a
group of ants again and again. He hadn't even considered that it would
wipe out his nation's treasury not to mention his own personal coffers.
He didn't want to give himself to anti-terrorist strategies and 24 hour
a day campaigns that would have sustained his empire but buried him in
lonely problematic calculations, hypotheses about the thinking of some
elusive enemy, and general logic (not that the President Bushes used any
of the above).  He was reluctant to part from continual dreaminess and
to end the world of the child that saw magic in a waving leaf on a
branch of a tree. He didn't want tedium that was as long as the
sentences of this prose. The only military ventures he envisioned for
himself were preemptive and bloody executions of the more vocally
intransigent non-believers who would diminish the ubiquitousness of his
own god and challenge his animistic thinking of nature as being linked
to man by their harping on animal gods. For his eternal link to the sun
was more essential and part of himself than any of his arms or legs.
And so, reluctant to part from dreaminess, he built a new capital city
for Egypt that he devoted to the worship of Aten. The city, Amarna, was
created to be Aten's sacrosanct home. As for the crusades to extirpate
all memory of any gods other than Aten through the destruction of
temples and relieves (particularly the temples and reliefs of gods that
had a "Re" attached to their names), none of it would have been so
bloody had the believers allowed him to clean away their chiseled
nonsense the way one would the crayon happy markings of children on the
walls of the family home.

Gabriele's motives for creating a non-melodic lullaby about a god
that had been extinct for thousands of years were even a little unclear
unto her. Perhaps the reasons for the avant-garde lullaby could have
come from that one afternoon when she was four. On that day she had
become less interested in nursing a wounded bird and so began to play
with her tiny plastic toy soldiers beside her mother who was clipping
wet shirts and military trousers on the clothesline.

The noon sun was slapping both their faces the way the heat from an
oven evaporates the grease put on two baked potatoes. Gabriele, bothered
by the heat, turned away from the soldiers and then took a glance at the
sun. She turned toward her mother and mentioned some eagerness for
Christmas. Her mother turned toward Gabriele with stoic facial
expressions and then crassly spoke in German that Gabriele should stop
thinking about Christmas since it was a long way off. The mother snapped
the clothes on the line with more forceful pinches and then asked her
daughter if she didn't think she was a bit old to pursue such nonsense
as Christmas. Gabriele said that she didn't understand and so her mother
unhesitatingly told her that there was no such thing as Santa Claus.
Gabriele saw her mother smile sadly.  She sensed a kindness in this
smashing of ignorance and innocence the way she had seen Aunt Peggy
smash a horse fly on one of her uncle's stallions.

"In a way, I  am glad you brought this up," continued Gabriele's
mother in German. "There are some things that will be changing soon."  A
cloud ran by the sun and in its shadow Gabriele glanced up at a frothy
blob that looked like the form of an old man in ancient garb.  At the
age of four she could not recognize the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus
sculpted into the cloud or a cloud shaped or sculpted into Heraclitus.
"There is some early news I should tell you. I really should but it is a
little hard to get it out.  You are such a baby, you are, but now you
are a bit wiser, eh? You know the situation with Santa. Life is going to
be full of sobering face slappings like that .I am very glad that you
are clogging your tears like a good girl. I'm proud of that fact.  I was
a little worried that you would be bawling like stupid little thing.
Crying about such things like this would be bad, bad behavior when there
are so many bigger things one shouldn't cry about either."  The girl
couldn't help having watery eyes even though she did not release the
tears and soon mucus began to run from her nostrils. She wiped it onto
the back of her hand.  "Heavens, Gabriele, that's nasty. Remember to not
get into the cookie jar without scrubbing those hands of yours
thoroughly. WellEnow, you are wiser for knowing the situation with Santa
so I can tell you things, eh? You have a wiser and smarter brain than
any other 4 year old who has ever walked the planet, don't you think so?
Now I can tell you things because there won't be any damage, eh? Oh, why
won't my mouth work right at getting this out? "  Gabriele stood stiff.
Questions were piercing into her as if she were target practice but she
stood stiffly not feeling a thing accept the demise of Santa Claus.
"Christmas is so lovely with everyone being together, don't you think
so? Still that doesn't always happen, eh?  When this doesn't happen
there is no weeping.  In this case, there will just be smiles on the
kitten's face, eh?  I'm sorry but we will not all be together this
Christmas.  We are parting our ways. Your father and I will be
experiencing something new and you will be experiencing a different
thing that is something new. In experiencing something new, you've got
to be bold and take one's stance with a smile on the kitten's face. Some
things are the way they are. No wishing will bring Santa Claus into
existence and wishing won't stop new things from happening. You will
soon go live with your Aunt Peggy. Your father and I are going back to
Germany. He is going to be stationed there again.  Your father is a
great American patriot and has been asked to return to our motherland of
Germany on important duties. You like your father's sister so much.  Am
I right? Your aunt Peggy: we are lucky to have her.  Really, we are.
Strange lady though; but with all those horses, maybe she'll take you
for a ride sometime.  Horses have ponies.  They could give you one.  You
never know. She will have a tutor to help you to read and do math and
will let you play sports in her yard under the supervision of an
athletic trainer. The yard is large and fenced in nice. You know that.
You will be happy there. The house is near a Catholic school. You will
go there each day with those monkeys of hers. Much better than being
here and there with us; and with this plan, you get two mommies instead
of just one.  That makes you better than the stupid little rascals your

If  the little girl within Gabriele had been born a boy and that boy
hadn't slipped away from the influence of the mother toward a male role
model, she would have been branded a homosexual by one impact of the
brain onto another.  It would have been a gradual but ineluctable
branding within a few critical years. But these few minutes of a girl's
life at the clothesline with her mother made her into a misogynist, a
stoic and an atheist.  From this time at the clothesline she learned
that everything was a myth or prevarication and the only kind of reality
that existed was her own self and the natural forces that beamed onto
her. Romanticizing the sun that burnt her face and could end up giving
her skin cancer was better than the self-defeating flames of hate that
might have been a force inside her consuming what could have been her.
This silly, and barely believed myth gave grace to her infrequent social
interactions and regulated her sleep patterns.

Chapter Ten

(1989: Houston)

Turning away from the cooked bacon strips dripping grease on their
paper towel bedding, he walked to the bathroom. He hoped that she would
come into the kitchen while he was away.  He hoped that she would swig
her juice in one gulp and quickly eat her share of the bacon and toast;
and once finished, that she would quickly go out with the garbage of the
early morning that would soon be picked up by the sanitation workers
whom people crudely referred to as garbage men. He hoped that this could
be done while he was in the bathroom and while his new bacon began to
sizzle in the skillet. She knew this as much as one knew anything.  She
believed that it came to her intuitively without the use of her faulty
senses that were capable of adulterating reality; or, if sensed, that it
entered her consciousness ineffably similar to the passing dog that
recognizes the pheromone spray of a much earlier dog.  She did not mind.
Non-romantic conclusions were non-confining.  They were spring breeze
declaring the end of winter. This was a beginning and an ending of a
relationship within the space of 6 or 7 hours and she did not mind that
at all.  All relationships were the beginning of an end and the quicker
expedited the better off she thought she would be.

She was in the bedroom dressing herself in a very faint light of
early morning and she could not see him return from the bathroom to cook
the last of his bacon where the strips shrank phallically in the heat.
But from the smell she, of course, knew that was happening and she could
imagine that he was analyzing their experience together in front of his
skillet, and sinking into a void.  She could guess this because he, like
all humans, was incapable of reliving the frenzy through a precise
memory of it; and he was now trying to find some sensibility in his
voracious, self-consuming frenzy.  She wanted to laugh out loud the way
she had laughed out when they were in bed together and she seeing his
body, less real in the darkness, become wholly stiff before her.  Yes,
she thought then scoffingly, he was a holy stiff.  Now, kitchen-bound,
he was no doubt using logic to create a sententious wallowing where the
act was more hallowed in the past.  She presumed that he was thinking
back on his experiences with his wife and comparing this one without
"love" to the separated wife's loving caresses. She thought about the
way he looked ten minutes earlier scrambling around for his clothes that
were by his bed in almost arthritic movements.  Even as she slipped on
her skirt, she still felt the same repulsion and indifference toward him
because of this action.  Certainly no friendship could ensue from this
intimacy with the young assistant professor.  It was always a bit
disappointing for her, really, that physical intimacies were so
gluttonously selfish and fully incompatible for caring relationships.
She knew that reality every time she engaged in such activities and yet
she somewhat inaccurately told herself that with each new sexual
experience she acted like an innocent girl in her first sexual foray.
Following a mirage, she told herself, was just an inane pitfall to being
human, and only a fool was disappointed in human vulnerabilities-as
slight as she told herself hers were.

She hadn't run over him with a car to create those arthritic
movements in the bedroom nor had she cast some spell on him although she
was loosely affiliated with bewitching organizations like WICCA despite
their ecclesiastic and congregational ambiance. His pathetic reaction
was strange although undoubtedly provoked. Sure, in bed together she had
guffawed at his ridiculous post-sexual statement that he could not leave
his wife as if women could not have sex with handsome men for pleasure.
She apologized to him immediately afterward for this egregious
chortling. After all, he wasn't so mistaken.  Most women were there to
mate with a man for the purpose of perpetuating their selfish genes by
breeding. Most could not sense themselves beyond that feeling, that rush
of love, that dopamine addiction that was cajoling them to breed. In
fact, she had to admit that she had never met a woman who was not like
that; but then, unbeknown to him, she never categorized herself as a
woman. She was a female with nothing womanly inside of her. To her
knowledge, there was no pathetic lonely neediness or "womanity" that
brewed within her. Hearing her guffaw in bed an hour earlier and her
bashful apology afterward, he probably did not think about anything in
particular except how best to create an amicable departure.  But then,
still in bed, she made an analogy of sex to stale potato chips, which
upon occasion she did not mind eating for the salt that was contained
there.  This faux paus must have made him feel as if he had had
intercourse with a cannibal for soon there was that arthritic rustling
with his clothes.  The corollary of seeing him look for his clothes
feebly was the igniting of her "miso-him-ony" (a word that she coined

She went into the kitchen and to her satisfaction she found the man
transformed into bacon.  Anyhow, he wasn't there so she ate her
breakfast snack, went to the bathroom, and then came out only to imagine
that she heard him crying in the closet between the
muffling of jackets, with empty hangers lightly clanging against each
other. She felt a sorrow for him and took on his mental void. She saw,
however, that he was outside and felt foolish.  Had her senses been more
astute than her cognition?  It sometimes happened. From the window she
saw him in the tiny park swinging alone with the full moon diluted by
the rising sun.

Sex, she thought, as she watched his body hit the winds, was being
massaged by one's own hormones, turned on by oneself, or more accurately
one's sense of pleasure, and making love to fantasies of one's mind
rather than the individual locked into one's body. Yet she was
titillated if not inveigled by such physical pleasures that kept her
imagination more bound than what she would have liked. Sensate hungers
of animals and men were ineluctable but inconsequential "things" that
she would not allow to be the synopsis of herself even if upon occasion
she explored these appetites fully. This night was more than just diving
into sensual experiences when she could no longer stay logical without
slipping into a philosophical void: it had been a sociological
experiment of seducing the opposite sex in a gay bar called "Heaven"
more from compassionate and empathic dialogue than sexual ploys; it had
been because of the humidity of Houston; it had been...she was not sure
what it was. She, having gone with some of her gay friends to "Heaven,"
had become one of those "fag hags" that such non-lesbian gay bar-going
women are often called. Ostensibly, the night had been so different and
so speciously amusing but really any nightclub was the same:  that same
loneliness and that same sense that appetites were fueling a human form
like a smart bomb that was out of control. She scorned having had
sympathy for him. She rebuked herself for having sympathy for situations
that did not exist, which was so much worse. To think that he had been
in a closet crying was worse than insane for one who was so proud of her
logical skills, and so believing that she could stare down the eyes of
wild leopards and not shirk from the eyes of lepers. Sorrow for him, she
told herself, was a brief misfiring of neurons in an awkward situation
that brought on a second of a brief hallucination and an emotional
barricade that she now had to scurry around.

Gabriele ate a piece of cold toast abandoned near the bacon. She did
not delude herself: he had prepared this meal (such as it was) to
minimize his feelings that he had used her, although really she had used
him. She was hungry so she ate. The fact that it was cold showed his
hostility toward her.  She knew this but ate the toast with a smirk on
her face. A minute later, she took out some snuff from her purse and a
cold beer from the refrigerator and then went onto the porch. Outside,
the wind was still bringing the coolness of winter nights that the sun
beat down with the days. She drank and watched him. She felt repulsion
for her one-night stand and wanted to get into her car, which would move
her to her apartment, exclusive to herself and her logic. The impulse to
play, however, was too much; so after mildly draining the tobacco-saliva
from her mouth into the beer can, she crossed Dunlavy street to join him
on the swing set.

"Y-e-s!" said Gabriele in a tone of affected romanticism of the
trivial, kicking the air beneath her as his swing lost momentum.   She
giggled like a schoolgirl.  She reduced her swinging gradually to
cessation careful to not just stop because he had done so. After her
feet were dragging and cutting into the dirt, he pulled out a cigarette
to hang in his face.

"I fixed some bacon," he said indifferently after she was equally
stagnant and inert.

"So you did," she responded less zealously.

He didn't say anything but she could read it all the same.  He
didn't say, "I'm sorry, but could you go?"  He didn't say, "We enjoyed
each other's company, I think."  He didn't say, "I've got a
relationship, more or less, with my wife although she doesn't know my
other side."  He didn't say, "I thought being with you might make me
feel more desire for women, be more romantic, and get her back into my
life again. I hope you don't think I've used you."  He did not say that
predominant thought that was in his eyes, "I'm sorry, but could you go,
please?"  There would have been a pleading "please" in it if he had been
able to "find the backbone" to articulate his request. There was none of
that "stuff" said among nearly all men from one generation to the next
with a few extra contemporary novelties that saved men from being
completely trite.  She liked wordless empathy.  It could be shut off at
any second like tap water."

"Relationships: they are plural, complicated, and opposing for you,
it seems." Gabriele said this with her hand under her chin as if her
lover were an interview for a dissertation.  "Don't be so worried."  She
smiled. "My fear of you hunting me down has more merit than any fears
you might have of me."  She chuckled at herself. Her mind repeated his
laconic words: "I fixed you some bacon."  They began to echo in her
mind.  "What is this?" she thought.  "Does he want me to think this
breakfast of his is my reward for this bit of a roll in the hay?" She
snickered to avoid piercing him with dilating eyes of hate.  Then she
smiled at her former professor.  It was a contrived smile and although
she hated artifice, in a world of getting one's needs met one needed to
behave insincerely.

"Complicated and opposing, are they? Okay, if you want to look at it
that way," he retorted. "Well, you can't exactly say that you weren't in
Heaven, can you?"

"Si' estaba alli tambien.  Eso es innegable"("Yes, I was there
also.  This fact is indisputable"). She spoke to his dark Brazilian
skin.  She spoke to all of his Morris codes and secret languages that
she understood all and had contempt for everything that he was. She
wanted to speak to her former psychology professor as a cheerful
therapist but such nascent words when she tried to formulate them in her
mouth became dying winds over the rubble reef of her tongue and the sea
of her saliva. Still she smiled although a supercilious undertone tried
to gain beastly dominion.  "The sport of seduction was all I had in
mind, Mr., and then you went ahead and gave me more.  You cooked some
bacon and toast.  I thank you."  When his face again fell, as she wanted
it to fall, she raised herself from the swing.  The tree limbs seemed to
wave goodbye to him.  Then they bent as she walked away from him; and as
she, on reflex, glanced back, they ricocheted and then folded back like
a curtain which had material composed of the darkness of the limbs and
the sketchy sunlight.  She could not see him, and she appreciated this
fact.  The vinyl and its coolness, within the car, made her upper body
shiver--how she sank into it and felt soothed. She thought of the waves
of the Gulf, at Galveston Bay, pulling at her legs with cool and non-
scathing talons. Although she was attracted to the Gulf of Mexico, and
felt befriended by an identity of its vastness synonymous to her own, at
this moment she preferred how she felt from the vinyl, which was limited
and all encompassing. It snuggled around the back of her throbbing head
and body.

The accelerator, firm and responsive to pressure, was freedom that
the social instinct (what little she had) and society at large robbed
from her. It moved to the embodiment of her will, propelling her from
anything she chose to disregard. She turned onto Westheimer Street. She
had gone as far as the thirteen-thousand block once, a year ago, after
enrolling at Rice University to pursue her graduate studies. Someone had
told her that Westheimer finally turned into a farm road, but back then
she decided to let her experience testify otherwise by choosing to not
go that far.

She drove on and on and soon she could see the roof of a church. In
an hour, she thought, there would be the culmination of activity from
the followers (the sheep) and the fully arrayed morning.  Inside the
cathedral of Santa Anna, which she was now approaching, a priest would
soon begin to prepare himself for an early mass after the golden curved
roof began to reflect the sunlight in a seductive glare.  The marble
walls would seem steady to these followers as if prayers said within
these corridors would cause one to be as steady and seemingly
everlasting as those very walls.  The church would shelter the
convictions of the myth reinforcers who actively promoted their religion
so that anxieties of injustice, the vulnerability of the human form, the
madness of a violent world and violent thoughts and feelings from
within, and the issue of mortality could be eased. In the face of
challenges from other ideologies, Christians protected their God and
religion with defensive armament of an anxiety-ridden people.  It wasn't
so hard to keep an individual-caring God inculpable of genocide,
typhoons, and plagues.  In modern times, those issues occurred in
underdeveloped foreign countries among heathen populations.  But car
accidents, cancer, high mortgage payments, a fire gutting a family home,
and stock market decline made the firm arms of a loving god into a
tenuous thing.  It shook the marble walls of the church.  Further, made
insecure by the believability of alternative religions with scriptures
or some dogmatic premises that were also claimed as infallible, the
Buddhist and the Moslem were threats for an American Christian no less
than the witch. She wondered why she did not hate religion more than
what she did. She asked herself why she did not circle around the block
for an hour and then grind a soul or two to the pavement.  Now that she
was thinking such peculiar things she continued with them.  She assumed
that driving through a crowd of people was a lot like bowling only the
pins weren't stationary.  Actually, she thought, it did sound more of a
sport than bowling ever did. However, the thought of doing such things
out of the context of her playful inner world was so repugnant to her
that it struck a chill down her spine.  Only an unequivocal nervous
breakdown would cause her to obey the savage and crazed thoughts that
ran amuck in one's head.  Like any German dam, such energy was a
trickling stream next to the mammoth structure that contained and
regulated it. She not only was her own effective dam and continually
building upon it, but she constructed worlds of ideas there.  From the
mammoth height of intellectualism, her turbid passionate waters seemed
almost puny. German people, she thought, did not camouflage their
barbarity in "goodness."  Early in history, except for notable flare-
ups, Germans were aware of their barbaric impulses so, like Nietzsche,
they coldly refined all emotions into philosophic rationales.

The idea of wanting to preserve oneself in the spirit made her face
cringe. She had often felt this way throughout her life, and it seemed
so alien to her that those people who could not create their own sense
of truth regardless of man's basic purpose (which was never known),
desperately sought immortality.

Myths, themselves, would give half-rational women and men
artificially solved philosophical truths that would ease their minds
into their jobs, their families, their adultery, their small
capitalistic ventures with large levels of greed, and their soap opera,
small-life concerns; but she could not conceptualize why their myths had
the element of self-preservation. She did not care to preserve herself.
Just in dying, and letting microorganisms rot her body away, she would
give her energy back to the world that would radiate it again elsewhere
in another form. If she had a child, she thought, she or he would not be
allowed to be subject to this Christianity, which had the plagiarism of
Ancient Egyptian Literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Plato, Confucius,
and God knows what as scripture. Still, there was no escape from the
West for fresher lies. The whole world was western now. All that was
possible was to abscond from it as much as possible.

Friendship, as that with her roommate, Betty, would be plugged up
in smiles and feigned promises to write. A day earlier she was folding,
sealing away, and throwing away material things and now it would be
states of mind.  It was very exciting-more than even a racket ball game
with Betty whose African American skin, muscular physique, and strong
competitive strife got her equated as the sister of many famous sports
legends.  This bantering was a subject for mutual scowling since both
wanted "female" sports to be "on an equal footing" and for races and
genders to not be stereotyped to certain activities.  With a thesis
accepted, the fourth largest city in America was to be nothing but a
folded map forgotten in the outside pocket of one's suitcase.  What
would she do now that her graduate studies had ended?  She did not know.
She had gained the knowledge by which to do nothing with complete
confidence and so taking it into a PHD level seemed redundant.  As much
as a human could be free, she was now free.

She wondered if the homosexuals at the bar last night were free. She
had enjoyed the men in colorful briefs-some who had danced on wooden
platforms covering two
juxtaposed pool tables to be more into the crowd. When someone of her
own sex had introduced herself with lust in her eyes, Gabriele had
wanted to sprint a quick exit through the wall but, instead of
cowardice, gave her a quick kiss on one of her cheeks and declared, in
her giggling, that this would be as far as she would go in that type of
liaison. At the same time she wondered a little whether that woman felt
more free by subconsciously choosing the type of sex she wanted to
copulate and then following the dictates of her own hormones instead of
having hormones dictated by social mores.

She was almost at her apartment when she consciously noticed
Betty's cigarette butts in her car ashtray.  She chastised such vile and
unaesthetic habits, but really it was her own maudlin oozing that she
despised.  Needing some time alone to sink into herself, she decided to
procrastinate packing and her last meeting with Betty by going to Allen
Parkway.  She parked her car in a lot nearby and told herself it was
time for her one-person celebration and to ensure that the past would
not be left in abeyance suffocating her in sentimental mush.  She wanted
people of the fading present to depart from her like releasing a deep
breath.  She sat in an obscure area of the Buffalo Bayou away from the
bike trail and a herd of morning bicyclists approaching the fountain.
She sat in the grass and allowed her body to be prey to fire ants,
which, like a goddess, she would then smash with her fingertips or
gently remove to blades of grass.  She meditated on the theme of chance
that was so intricate in the fabric of all things.  She picked clover
and dismembered their leaves, gladdened that the little girl flattened
out as she had been by the tank, still floated like a ghost in the
ethereal parts of her imagination.  She told herself that she would be
an empty shell of an adult to be bereft of her.

She again thought of the go-go boys dancing both on stage and on
pool tables.  They had been such titillation but as different as they
were, she doubted that they were free.  By their freedoms, they were
imploding into their own hungers just as she was imploding in memories
of last night that she couldn't quite shake.  She remembered how with
each beer her mind lost the paralysis of logic and she began to be more
sociable and pay less attention to the flickering icon, on the wall,
that was shaped like a wine glass; the queer associations of social
butterflies known as transvestites; the mirror which gave a blurred
version of this other part of humanity; and of course the dancers, who
were rather boring after a few minutes of seeing the ends of their
briefs sag from being paid for non-sexual tricks. Except for glances at
the surreal mosaic fragments of commercials and video music that played
on television sets, which were on the far corners of the walls, she
sometimes stared at men throughout the night with a specific intention
of wanting to copulate with one or all of them, but enjoying the aspect
of feeling sensual regardless. It was there that she met her professor.
He was someone who, according to her friends, often came to the bar, and
yet he looked lost. The seduction was easy. She asked if he wanted to go
with her, and he said that he did. Nothing was simpler and more exempt
from life's energy consuming, cat and mouse games. She thought about the
butts in her ashtray. She wasn't sure the reason.  Maybe the thought of
the smoke filled bar triggered this memory. Betty should have cleaned
out those cigarette butts, she thought.  What an ugly reminder of
herself. She looked at the grass all around her and then at the traffic
speeding by. The creation was sublime and chaotic. She pondered how
simplistic human logic was: the eyes taking in the light, the image of
the object refracted on the retina, the mental image playing in the
brain, recent memories regarding that object, and an abstract idea.  She
didn't want to think of anything.  She just wanted to watch the early
morning sunrise over the bayou.

Chapter Eleven

Jiffypop popcorn leaping over the heat of the stove's burner, the
expanding of the aluminum foil cover into a crown, and his sister, Jung-
Jun (that girl sister as dead and yet phantomesque as the murdered
adult) tacit and waiting anxiously to be the first to pierce into the
crown to obtain its edible jewels -the early days of her teaching him
how to catch a baseball, how to tie his tie before they went off to
Sunday schoolE He woke up from some forgotten but unsettling dream with
a few thoughts of her trickling into his consciousness. His thoughts
were uninvited and he tried to shake them off like a wet dog.  As much
as they were the past, they materialized through distant, sealed
corridors to haunt him.  Anything could be remembered. One thought
slapped into another in a restrained domino effect in the primitive
human psyche. Human will was like meat skewered and cooked on the

He had only recently moved to Seoul.  Desperate for work, English
had delivered and cursed him once again; although this time he had
become a clerk in a convenience store in the American military sector of
Itaewan.  He had a room in the back area.  It was really an extra stock
room.  The owner had been so insistent in the interview that any
employee he chose would need to live in the back area as an extra
security precaution.  Sang Huin didn't have the inordinate money
required to obtain an apartment since in Korea deposits on apartments
were like the purchases of condominiums and so, not wanting to live in a
yongwam, he had agreed. So upon waking this night, he did not
immediately recognize where he was. Waking in darkness and wondering
where he was at, it was Gabriele who dominated over his thoughts of

Gabriele's mind was sticky in malaise.  The child that she had had
not grounded her.  It's crying was without rhyme or reason. It spouted
out vehement, hellish, and non-stoppable roars like a locomotive.  The
malaise was hot and sticky.  It was as if all of his insatiable needs
were like a vomit-smelling glue and it was in her hair, on her face, and
in her clothes.  She could not escape.  Her intellectualism was being
stunted to this exclusive task of being an infant's caretaker.   "I will
surely snap like a twig on a crisp winter morning if I do not leave this
trailer," she thought to herself although she did not completely believe
it since solitude did not have much of an effect on her.  In this moment
of weakness where she did feel the need to depart from all the
responsibilities and the cacophony that was her son, she looked at him
disconcertedly.  He was no more family than the one she had come out of.
"I am like this lone soul that is forever seeking, although not
expecting, the one true friend that wants nothing from me other than to
be with meEthat person who will love me for just that." She further
thought, "I shouldn't have had this accident of conceiving a childEthis
mistake of giving birth to one.  However, here he is.  I can't exactly
return him."  Sang Huin recollected where he was.  He got up and opened
his door.  He saw the aisles of groceries.  Living here, he thought, was
like living in a storage area or a gigantic pantry.  He sighed.  He
grabbed some milk and a package of Oreo cookies that he would have to
pay for later.  Then he sat on his bed and took notes on what he had
been thinking concerning Gabriele.

But it was his sister who haunted him more. As teenagers, they
would jog together at the high school track and in school she looked so
beautiful wearing a skirt and her hair in a bun.  She was experimenting
with makeup at the age of 14.  She never did like it, dabbing it timidly
over her beautiful face.  She didn't need it any more in her late
twenties. With their mother she would continue to talk in that
mysterious language of Korean (Hangkuk-mal) that he did not understand.
It was their secret language.  It was their girlish society that he had
been excluded from.  As a family they functioned fine.  However, he and
his father never had connected personally when they were apart from the
others.  The man had always absconded from him.  He had been aloof.
Both of his parents were so aloof and so aged during the 14 months of
Jun-Jung's disappearance and seemingly elderly at the discovery of the
skeletal remains and the ensuing trial.

Gabriele felt as if she were at an amusement park and that her own
little world were nothing but a house of mirrors.  Each subsequent
mirror (despite her youth) cast an impression of more furrowed wrinkles
on her forehead, seemed to expand the appearance of bags under her eyes,
and made her hair look increasingly gray.  Life was nothing but a
bottle, a diaper, burping, feeding, and washing. The robotic movements
he demanded her to do to take care of him went on perpetually. His
crying went on perpetually.

Like with other late evenings that week, at 11:30 p.m. Saeng Seob
and his seeing-eye dog took the 40-minute subway ride over to meet him,
who would be waiting there in the terminal.  Saeng Seob resented him
some for quaking and thwarting the direction of his passionate river
that most men felt, rode, and defined themselves from.  Still, he kept
the resentment mute.  Being corrupted was a marginal thing when
confronted daily with oceans of loneliness.  Consciousness needed an
object and he needed a consciousness that wasn't always disconcerted,
diffident, and being thrust about like a lost, lonely man sucked up in
the waves. When he finished dabbling in some work for his cousin at the
university it was good to go someplace where he was wanted-someplace
away from the campus where friendship gave him identity that an
indifferent cousin cajoled or coerced into helping him failed to do.
Sang Huin had the need to impress him with the material that he had
written from the previous day or two. For Seng Seob, listening had
become a means of inveigling those who needed to feel that someone cared
to hear them-a lifebuoy that he could embrace around himself when
encountering the waves.  Sang Huin was not frightened away by his dead
orbs and so Saeng Seob let swimming, eating together, listening to the
recitation, giving Sang Huin brief tutorials in Korean, and this
peculiar sleeping together become the activities that bonded them.  Each
needed to chisel his name on the other one's brain in a city of ten
million strangers.  In a world of 6 billion people, each one needed a
special lure, and for him it was listening intensely to others.  He saw
himself as a demure epicure with no published writing and nothing
outwardly erudite to show for it.  He in his reserve believed that in a
world of nonsense spoken by barbarians little outside of human culture
had a positive worth except for friendship, and if he needed to listen
all night to someone he cared for, he would do just that.

In the back of the convenience store it was hard for him to critique
Sang Huin's prose. After all, it was a foreign language being read to
him but despite its blur to his mind it dazzled him in new vocabulary
that he would look up in his dictionary later. The role of boyfriend to
Seong Seob was peculiar but the human gourmandized touch above all
ambrosia. It was a special sensory input to the reticular formation of
the brain.  Touch gave a consciousness of relationship and belonging
that were the highest goals of all such humans, hominids, and primates
creeping their way to godhood. He hadn't felt particularly inclined to
be homosexual and yet that had little meaning when one needed touch and
friendship. Being blind made touch even more of an instrument of knowing
something although all grabbled around in darkness.

The next morning was Sang Huin's bit of a weekend and so Seong  Seob
feigned  sickness in a phone call to his cousin. The cousin was
indifferent and if he questioned the logic of calling in sick while
being absent from the home that both of them shared, he did not mention
it. So Seong Seob and Sang Huin went out to experience the changing of
the guard ceremony at Toksugum Palace: the soldiers in their colorful
ancient garb and round black brimmed hats, the horns, the drums and the
changing staffs. At first they went to Lawson's convenience store and
bought some kim bop (a Korean version of sushi), potato chips, and cola.
They took the food to a stack of lumber that had been piled to the area
opposite of the ticket counter and, for some minutes, plopped themselves
on top of it and witnessed what their senses allotted. Later, they went
to the amusement park, Lotte World. For each ride they stood in line
over half an hour. Once, as they were going into the bathroom, Sang Huin
kissed Seong Seob hurriedly before more men entered. Saeng Seob disliked
the intrusive act that brought the acknowledgement of his aberration if
not perversion into the light of day but the hot mouth was full of
molecules and passing of molecules in a kiss was an intoxicating thing
that took one away from the mundane aspects of reality.  Further, he
knew that the only wrong was in judging one Epicurean quest over that of
another.  It was an inconsequential thing.

Chapter Twelve

Gabriele smashed a corpulent ant into her second composition when
neither flicking it away with her fingertips nor blowing it off her
paper was successful.  She was writing a second story to put her son to
sleep after finding the first composition ridiculous. From this action
the insect was nothing but a brownish green blotch on her new work.
"Thai Tiger," she rewrote after scratching out the earlier paragraph
that had the blotch in it, "waved goodbye to his mother and father from
the window of the plane.  He was both sad and happy because he was
leaving one thing he loved and going to another.  The plane went into
the clouds and came down in Sri Lanka.  Tamil Tiger was waiting for him.
Tamil Tiger's mother took Tamil Tiger and Thai Tiger to her home in
downtown Colombo.  What is Colombo like, asked Thai Tiger from the
backseat of the car where he sat with Tamil Tiger.  It is full of wars,
said Tamil Tiger.  What are wars, asked Thai Tiger.  Let's change the
subject, retorted Tamil Tiger."

Gabriele paused from her writing and remembered her time in a
Moslem country.  For three months, when she was almost 6, she was in
Turkey.  She remembered that day when her mother suddenly came to Kansas
for her.  It had been nearly a year since she had seen her and she felt
a mixture of fear, surprise, and happiness at the thought of having the
fragmented pieces of her life reassembled.  She did not know if this
interruption of her adaptation to her aunt, uncle, and cousins had some
permanency.  She was already speculating that there was no permanency-
only being banged in the buttocks with bumper cars or being run over by
tanks.  She was only told that they would be going on a trip to the
other side of the world.  The potential of seeing something outside of
Kansas made her very happy.  Like any child, the discovery of flight was
a marvel and she stared out of the window as much as she could.  It was
a subject of curiosity that the clouds she had always looked up to (a
good many in the shape of the philosopher, Heraclitus) had really been
nothing but footstools with wooly sheepskins on them all along.  It was
quite a surprise and shook her hypothesis that her mother was mistaken
in saying that there wasn't a Santa Claus.  She had formulated this
hypothesis erroneously by the evidence of some irregular clouds that
seemed as if they were Santa's frothy sugar castles.

In Istanbul she became reacquainted with her father again.  Like in
olden times when she was four, he began to take her on trips to the
beach to pick up seashells or shop for groceries.  Once they were
shopping for some vegetables in a tight labyrinth of a crowded and dusty
outdoor market when suddenly they heard the sound of that Moslem call to
worship (a hybrid sound like of an instrument and a human voice) but the
call was at the irregular time of 3:00 on a Friday afternoon.
Pandemonium was in the streets, but everyone was going in the same
direction so actually Istanbul was less helter-skelter than usual.
Pushed with the herds, she and her father walked 5 blocks to an ornate
mosque.  She wanted to know what was "going on" so her father put her on
his shoulders and told her that a special Turkish custom of a beheading
was to begin shortly.   "Beheading?" she asked.  "Yes," he said with a
wry and troubled smile.  "To be without a head like the headless
horseman although I suppose a less animated one."  For a moment she was
so pleased and excited that she would witness such a splendor until she
saw a man with a bag over his face dragged up against his will onto the
marble stairs leading to the temple and a third man with a huge scythe
in his hands. A second later she witnessed the burly third man swing,
with all his round, bulging, muscular might in one fail swoop and the
head part from the shoulders which the second man placed in a basket.
There was surprisingly little blood at first.  Then the arteries
disgorged their content while the body fidgeted a few times on the holy

She suddenly knew that adults were monsters and that they ran amuck
in the world inimical to human decency.  In deep pain of one fragmented
and grieving for this man and the human race, she nonetheless controlled
her urge to cry.  She assessed her situation.  If indeed she were in a
land of adult monsters, outwardly she had to acclimate to their mores
and yet do the best she could, while growing up, to refrain from
becoming a monster herself.  If one couldn't withdraw from a situation,
she felt more than thought, a girl must play the game.  If she were to
leak out her pain by blubbering, they would hate her and she would be
perceived as foolish and weak.  Crying would never help.  It would only
get her into trouble.  She asked herself how best to achieve this
ostensible aim and she told herself that she should be inquisitive.  She
calmly asked why the beheading had occurred, the reason for the timing
of the occurrence, the exact nature of the crime, if beheadings were
permitted in America, and the final resting place for a 2 part
individual.  The questions made her father, a USAF officer for NATO, and
her mother, a USAF soldier's housewife, so happy.  The next day as her
mother was with curlers in her hair and her head in tact and under the
dryer at the beauty parlor, the young mother pointed out her daughter
and boasted about all the questions she had posed regarding the
beheading the previous night.  They boasted about her often; however,
two more months passed and the clarity of the ephemeral nature of the
reunion with her parents became clear.  After her summer holiday was
over and their honeymoon reunion with their child had ended, Gabriele
was sent back all alone in a jet to New York City and then a second
connecting flight that would lead her back to her aunt in Kansas.

Chapter Thirteen

It is 2008 and he, sometimes Adagio and sometimes Nathaniel or
various nicknames, still doesn't even have a consistent label for
himself.  Not even a consistent name has stuck on him all these 18
years; and the half hour that he has sat in the library there is that
same mental numbness of all other previous half hours.  It is numbness
as empty as a pit in the mouth from an extracted tooth.  He knows that
most men wander around the world untouched, unknown, not touching, and
not known or knowing. He knows that such men use girlfriends to prop
themselves up in order to feel fortified outwardly in 6 billion mostly
"nobodies" within a universe of continual flux.  He knows the selfish
jaundice of both men and women in a relationship and how with any length
of time it inflicts the relationship with the disease that is an
extension of the two.  He has been there and done that.  He had one
steady girlfriend but the relationship was hard to maintain when
swirling colorful treats in many edible shapes, smells, and voices of
varying feminine nectar fell through the orifices of his senses. It does
not bother him to be no one special.  It does not bother him to be the
same as "regular guys" although most of them have consistent names,
nicknames, or aliases they do not cower from.  They make up the masses;
and the masses are a brute force to which he is one of the billions.
When a thing or a way of being exists in large numbers, he supposes, it
is bound to be right.  At a large table in front of an open book, with
fingertips he grazes an area of skin above his upper lip.  The facial
stubble, when he rubs it, gives him extra reinforcement in his vain
embellishment of masculinity.  It is a vain reinforcement that the
litter of pornography he perused like a philomath in his car a few
minutes before entering the library did not do. Even the insouciance
that he artificially concocted there with the puff of a cigarette while
waiting for the rain to soften enough to drive did not make him more
conscious of his male vigor than a brief feel of facial stubble.  There
is little beyond sexual energy to define him.  No fields, no
disciplines, have awakened an internal voice.  Not yet, not ever, he
thinks.  He is a man without a voice and such a man is most conscious of
the primordial emotions of hating those who bar his pleasure and love
toward those who facilitate it.  Adagio-it was a somewhat forgotten
word, which once popped into his head for the creation of an email
address.  The word has inadvertently been a perfect epitome of his slow
mental activity for books.  Slow in that respect, academics with their
words and numbers in infinity have stood out like the awkward
anachronisms of hieroglyphs chiseled into stone. It would seem ironic
that someone who perceives books to be as lifeless as stones should be
in a library watching the pages of a book occasionally turn under the
draft of the ceiling fan when not under the directive of his own will.
The book is of 20th century American art and contains a few examples of
his mother's work. Only pleasures from pictures have had some vague
calling or tugging; but then it has been pictures that have composed so
much of his existence.

He had detoured from the interstate and came into the town to buy
a sandwich and cola at a convenience store, which fostered the purchase
of the newest issues of Playboy and Hustler as well.  He is downtown
because the heavy diluting of rain in this small town necessitated him
to pull over to the side of the road and park his car.  He is in the
library because it was a two-block run from where he parked his car.
The continual pounding of rain caused him to have to go to the bathroom
sooner than what he would have done otherwise, for he is in all respects
a follower of nature's suggestions. The bathroom was his impetus for
entering the library. In the process of staring up at the fan to focus a
second of hate toward it he sees a woman straightening her body after
rising off the seat.  She is at a table around 50 feet from that of his
own.  Her table is near a small wall of books.  He regrets that he has
not seen her legs slide on the shiny wood of the chair or her thighs
rising up to him although imagined action can be continually repeated
and he continually repeats it.  Bound in black stockings, the legs go to
the front desk where some hands scan titles of her videos.

"It seems nobody checks out books any longer.  We've had to
restrict the kids use of the internet upstairs.  They'll do nothing but
chat the whole day if nobody catches them and then before they leave
they check out videos to take back home."

"Well, guess I should feel honored to be thought of as a kid when
I'm nearly 42.  I am really in a hurry so could you pleaseE"

"All right."

For a minute if not longer there is a momentary lapse in the
present before he becomes conscious of it again.  Fueled on adrenalin
and hunger, he finds himself walking behind her in the rain.  He
imagines himself catching up and offering his umbrella to her but she
has one of her own and so he timidly tracks her from a distance.  He
imagines her dropping the keys to her car but the fates also do not
allow him this prop.  He sees her get in but imagines her already seated
with the door shut but unable to start the car.  This does not happen
either.   He is unable to monitor himself. Like a child he distances
himself from his actions. He is feeling the movements of someone else's
body.  Will has been frozen in time. There is a cold frozen constancy in
his consciousness of the present moment.  He finds himself knocking on
the window.  She rolls it down.  He does not know what to say.  She
hasn't dropped one of her videos in the rain.  He is as if naked and
without a gift or prop with which to make a confidence.  He stares at
her mature beauty.

"Yes?" she asks.

"Looks like the air in one of your tires is low-this one on the
driver's side."

"Oh.  That shouldn't be the case.  I filled them up yesterday.  Do
you..."  She hesitates.  "Do you think I need to come out and look?" Her
words are circumspect.  They are of one who does not trust his
intentions. If only she could have said this with confidence, he thinks.
He means that then he could have gotten the opportunity to have her
outside.  He could have pushed her under the car and accosted her with
his body.

"No, maybe you'll get back home okay. I think you will.  I just
noticed it looked down a little."

She smiles. "Maybe because I am sitting here.  Don't you think so?
- Or maybe not."  Her tone reflects more confidence in him and she
treats his ideas with deference.  She defers all mechanical judgments to
men whom she supposes to have such genetic predispositions.

"It's low," he says, "but I think you'll get back fine.  In the
morning you can put air in it."

"Thanks so much.  Okay."  She pushes the button to roll up the
window.  He wants to stop its progression.  He wants to put his hands in
what is left of the closing hole and break out the window.  He wants to
shove himself on top of her, slap her down onto the passenger seat, and
have his pleasure.  As strong as that urge is, he is too socialized and
can't break in.  He retreats to his car.  He subconsciously pushes in
the lever of his umbrella and carries it, compacted, within his hands
despite being drenched by rain.  He feels the tightening of his sinuses.
He is getting ill but he isn't aware of this.  He passes a music store.
He notices that his shoestring, to the left, is dragging onto the wet
pavement like broken strings of a guitar.  Passing an alley he envisions
her there to be grasped like a guitar's case; yanking the instrument
from its case; and letting his tongue strum.  He feels incontinent and
he notices his erection.  He imagines her without ablution, naked to
smell, touch, sight, and taste. He gets into his car, ties his shoe,
pulls a handkerchief out of the glove compartment, and wipes the sweat
and rain from his forehead and face.  For a moment he rests his aching
forehead against the rim of the steering wheel.

Chapter Fourteen

(1989: Houston)

Back from Allen Parkway, Gabriele pulled into the driveway of the
house she and Betty rented.  She drove beside three black girls at an
adjacent property who were tilting back a large stone.  As Gabriele
opened her car door, she wondered what was underneath that had gotten
their attention.  It had to be a salamander, a gecko, or a swarm of
large fire ants.  A two-part skeleton of a midget in a partially
underground ossuary wasn't in the realm of possibility; but whatever
existed there, it caused their squeamish giggling.  She felt a little
squeamish, herself, at the thought of children grotesquely disgorging
into her senses.  What made it worse was the fact that they were there
doing this when she was in such a need of finally reaching her home-her
sanctuary.  She thought about the Turk that had been decapitated twenty-
three years earlier, although it seemed only days ago.  Back then she
had been as young as the youngest of the three girls whom she was now
looking at.

She remembered how one of those bedeviled executioners let the head
roll out of the bag, took it by the hair, and displayed it to the crowd
before returning it to its basket-a basket that looked to the very young
Gabriele as if it should be used for apples.  Even so long ago she
tacitly condemned the adult monsters that enjoyed the macabre and
applauded such savagery in the name of justice.  Still her monstrous
father, her teacher, had inadvertently led her into that large life-
changing enlightenment that was always arrived at from a corridor
through the darkest abyss.   Partially from being pushed along with the
crowd and partially from human curiosity, he had shown her the loss of
innocence through the realization that society, that lovely refinement
of conveniences and kind neighboring policemen, was a horror.    Even
when so young, she intuitively guessed that Turkey was just an outward
display of a refined and obscure savagery that had to be in all adult
institutions regardless of what they were or the nations they were in.
She didn't exactly think it but she felt it all the same.  With tears
that she could never shed and by grief, full empathy, and comradery for
this unknown individual, she had walked into the full darkness of
enlightenment.  The sentiments for the slain man would remain dormant
and mute in her thoughts all the rest of her life but the enlightenment,
the darkness, would be more active in its behavioral influence.

Twenty-three years ago she imagined all children as the good and
the innocent as she believed herself to be back then.  That was before
she went to school and learned what egocentric sadists they really were.
For they, the masses, enjoyed the ruthlessness of the name callers whose
arrows and vitriol of "Four eyes! Four eyes!" and "Piggy! Piggy!" toward
two of her classmates was inexorable. How deeply ingrained was the
hunter and the competitor in every child. She could see it in the sports
they played together. She could see it in the spelling bees.  She could
see it in the name-calling, which was an aversion toward anybody who was
different.  Differences might be deleterious to the concept of the
tribe. It was the corollary of the need to survive that existed
atavistically and came about instinctually as a response passed on from
the youngest of the earliest Homo sapiens. It was they who, as sexually
reproductive adults, passed on the knowledge of their inner children.
Gabriele was so fortified that attempts at name-calling directed toward
her personally did not even scathe her. But when the name callers and
all their tacit accomplices shot their arrows and threw buckets of
vitriol at the fat girl and the girl with glasses, her wrath was also
implacable. She would beat up the worst of these tiny savages. Innocent
expressions and gauche interactions of ostensibly pure children belied
what the offspring of these adult monsters were really like; and as if
misogyny and mis-himony were not enough, such incidents caused both mis-
girlony and mis-boyany.   Normally such an abnormality of four misses
would constitute the misanthropy of serial or spree killers but Gabriele
did not feel much misanthropy.

Her ideas, she knew, were as rare as a Tennessee Coneflower or a
Black Outhouse Hollyhock-both of which bordered on extinction. They were
as ineffable as the very universe she resided in and as pessimistic as
Hobbes' social contract theory (although to her who often liked dressing
up in black, black was not pessimistic being the color of intrigue and
enlightenment). She believed that Hobbes was somewhat wrong in thinking
that humans suppressed their own savagery through the common necessity
of not wanting to be murdered in their beds.  The contract wasn't as
simple as that alone.  The adult Gabriele thought that through society
small doses of competitive cunning could be exuded in basic business
competition and politics for the whole duration of one's long life.  The
common workers left out of both, if given a high enough salary, would
not be anarchists or proletariat revolutionaries if they had enough
money to go to action packed movies or sports stadiums, buy whores once
in a while, or other benign conduits of savagery.  In short, she
believed that society came about for the purpose of giving its members a
long lifetime of small doses of savagery instead of a few episodes of
gluttonous devouring that could cause one to be murdered rather easily.
She wasn't sure of the specifics.  She hadn't thought it worthy of her
time to think them out in an obscure philosophical treatise.  Besides,
figuring out why the dog bit the bone wouldn't stop the biting.

"What are you doing, girls?"  Gabriele smiled at them and walked
toward the stone.

"Wer' gonna killem, Lady," said the eldest girl.

"What per se are you hoping to rob of a life?"

"Lady'speakin' Shakespeare," said the eldest.

"Wer' gonna open these lizzardheads like coconuts and pull out the
brains and give'em to you, Lady, so that you can have breakfast,"
elucidated the second one.

They laughed and Gabriele smiled widely, fully amused by their non-
feminine creative play.  "My ladies, methinks thou art so nice, but
unfortunately I've already had breakfast."

"Lady'speakin Shakespeare again," said the first one.

"Oh, that Lady," scowled the second one playfully.

"Yeah, it's the Shakespeare language," continued the first, "But
I'm good at figerin'out Morse code so I can do this.  There's more
English in Shakespeare than in Morse code. She's meanin' she already had
breakfast but I don't think that matters none.  It ain't an issue."

"Yeah-ain't  anissue-- any o'that," mimicked the second one.

"You can put it in your 'frigerator," said the oldest

"Pootit in your 'frigerator" said the third and smallest of the
girls. The two eldest girls laughed at her intrusion into the
conversation.  Everybody began to laugh including Gabriele.

"No," Gabriele said, "The refrigerator is full."  She was quickly
becoming serious.  She saw sharp little stones in the hands of the
eldest one.  Even a child was a brutal force or, at any rate, immolated
in play the brutality of life on the planet. She sighed and took away
their instruments of war.  She wanted to scold them but there was no way
to scold all humanity of the past, present, and future.  Only a crazed
individual would not be cognizant of their limitations.

"Damned if she done takenway the lizzardknife," said the second one
in disbelief. To the luck of all concerned Gabriele didn't hear them and
wasn't even aware that one of them tried to spit at her from behind as
she was walking toward the house. She climbed up the stairs to where she
and Betty were living.

She hoped that Betty would not be there.  She needed some time
alone to be in that harmony within and to probe the endless fathoms of
her probity and intelligence without the intrusions of the outside
world.  Even in childhood, Gabriele thought, she had projected an aloof
quality of a stereotypical German.   A sotto voce current in her brain
called "conscience" when in fact it was nothing but a less dominant or
minority opinion that was disgruntled at being such chastised her for
her "bitchiness" (an indifference that both barked and bit).  Still, she
told herself, it did not matter.  How was a self an extension of
others?  When she was born did she bring them into existence, and when
she died would the human race cease to exist?  People came and went as
they should and friendship was merely for those of feeble ideas needing
to be reinforced by the herd.  For her whose ideas were such steady
companions and was real within herself without needing to be reflected
in her associations with others what need had she of the Betties of the
world. She had never met a German whose example confuted the stereotype.
She remembered the few times that her father took her to a beach along
the East Coast and the myriad times when he took her to the beaches in
Turkey. She always wandered to one side of the beach, culling certain
miscellaneous seashells to examine as her father sojourned away from her
with pensive and hard expressions, sunk in his own mind.  The
expressions told her that he savored the idea of being alone in his own
cold, watery depth. Despite the fact that he had taken her to the
execution, she loved him most as far as people were concerned.

She turned her key in the doorknob and opened her part of the
house. She thought, "The human mind when opened up has, at its crypt,
humanity." Particularly for herself she loathed the idea of being a
social creature. She often thought of her roommate each day of each
semester, the homeless grass chewing Filipino whom a woman at the
Laundromat nicknamed the botanist, professors, her family, and
acquaintances: they all made up her reality.  She did forget about Betty
during vacations and she forgot about her aunt, uncle, and cousins
except during the vacations but she couldn't quite escape thinking about
them altogether. Overall, she didn't have much sentiment toward anyone,
and they could easily be shaken and faded from her memory once she was

Betty was usually an early riser, but not hearing any noise in the
kitchen or living room, Gabriele at first assumed she was sleeping.  She
checked all the rooms but they were empty except in sound, where a small
television remained turned on. A newscaster was discussing the economic
powers of the East with reference to the new economic experiments in the
Soviet Union and China. "The whole f-- world is West," thought Gabriele.
She felt that democracy was as much an experiment as communism: an
experiment on how free to be greedy things could get without entirely
destroying the ecology that was the base of it all whereas the original
communism of Trotsky was an experiment on how equal life could get and
still be bearable in its world of frightened and impoverished clones. It
all missed the mark as far as she was concerned.  If each and every
person was not granted food, shelter, and a profession by which to feel
worthy (if indeed there were worthy professions, a question that she
posed to herself) all of these socioeconomic systems were nothing to her
but debauchery. She contemplated the fate of the homeless Filipino:
wasn't she quite the hypocrite to say that the world was wretched to not
offer him assistance that would pull him from the streets and away from
feeling disoriented and hearing voices in his own head when she didn't
care to bring him into her apartment.  Still, she didn't want him any
more than she would want a tick, a cockroach, or a bedbug.  If he wanted
to come into her apartment and be Betty's lover, after the last bag was
put into her car, that was another thing altogether.

The living room had the smell of light and stagnant smoke of Betty's
cigars. Betty, she thought, must have recently gone to another final
examination. It was best that way. With her gone Gabriele would not have
to coerce some giggling and mild sighs as she packed her racket ball
paddle with other items. There would be pleasant but vague and
generalized memories of their racket ball entertainment together but, to
be sociable, she would have to affect some maudlin sentiments of loss.
She would need to feign loss particularly about them living together as
if it had made them conjoined spiritually although obviously not Siamese
twins. She would have to use the width of her arms to symbolize an
embrace (a real embrace would have been impossible when a sexual embrace
with a man was bad enough). She quickly entered the bathroom to take a
shower that might wash away any odor of the man she had slept with;
packed more of her things; saluted the new communism in her heart;
snickered inside at the thought that Japan had out-capitalized the West
the way it tried to out-imperialize the imperialists; turned off the
television, and left with the remaining two boxes.  She swerved off the
drive, veering somewhat near the girls in her eagerness to leave.

"What's wrong with you, woman?" yelled the eldest one.

"What's wrong with you, nigga" yelled the little black girl full of
energy.  The girl did not know the full pejorative nature of the word
nor the fact that Gabriele, being white, could not be a Negro unless one
were to label her such for the black clothing she often wore. The other
two stood with legs arched and bulging hominid-like--the eldest with
right arm erect and out from her body and the hand half-clenched into a
fist. Gabriele saw this from the mirror.  She hadn't driven that close
to the girls so she thought their reaction was unjustified.  The fact
that she thought they looked like hominoids had nothing to do with their
skin color nor their nonstandard use of language but her own aversion
toward children and adults based upon the sensitivities she had as a
young child and the fact that these girls were pelting the top of her
car with clods.  She returned to the drive.  "Hey!" she yelled from the
window.  "Your mother's insurance is gonna pay for any damage.  You are
lucky that I'm not opening my car door because if I were to get you I
would -" she had to stop herself.  Whatever she said under these
circumstances could only put violence and hatred into their callow
minds, exacerbating their nature as hers, so prone to its aggressive
flares.  She could only make it worse than what it would be if these
children were merely left to glower and ponder in silence as she was now
doing. And yet there was little delectation in self-restraint.   A fully
sociable being was one who liked to provoke responses positive or
negative like billiard balls banging against each other.  One felt alive
based upon the vibrations gained from being knocked around; and as
eremitic and misanthropic as she was, Gabriele was a girl who liked her
fun.  She saw the clods of dirt in their hands and the dirt on the
windshield.  She slowly got out of the door, which caused them to back
away a few steps.  She didn't look at them but instead walked around her
car.  Seeing that no damage had occured, she then returned to the
driver's seat. She decided to leave the matter alone so she spit a
cannon ball of chewing tobacco toward the girls and ventured onward.
The cannon ball was the penalty phase.  After all, she did not want them
to think that they could pelt motorists with impunity.  Still she
imagined the sullied tribulation that she must have caused the younger
one.  She could feel the devastating humiliation that perhaps they all
felt at a wad of snuff coming at them like a projectile.  She hoped that
they would not interpret it as racial hatred.  She felt the horror
behind what she had done and yet there was nothing she could do.  If she
were to stop the car and return to them to apologize they would probably
pelt her and the car both with stones.  She disliked egocentric
children.  She even disliked the refugee children whom she worked with
part-time until two days ago although she camouflaged it in
professionalism.  She knew that if only human beings were able to pierce
their protective bubbles they would find that one genuine love within,
that innate tender need to be liked, cared about, and have one's human
worth confirmed and an identification of this sentiment in other
sentient beings.  Still the world was what it was and she told herself
that if she were to return she would be stoned or clodded based upon
their whims.

In this odd corner behind the skyscrapers and away from the Houston
Symphony, the Meneil Collection with its engravings of Aten and Ptah,
the Rothko Chapel, the Astrodome, the Miller Theatre in Herman Park, the
University of St. Thomas, the University of Houston, and her Rice
University, nothing touched her sense of imagination so much as the
ghettos strewn around them.  She admired the simple life burrowed away
from the congested avarice of the city's center.  She felt compassion
for the poorest of the poor who had to be in bleak circumstances but she
could not do anything in her two years in Houston but take photographs
of the infamy of the free enterprise system and continue with her job
working with refugees.  She didn't do all that much.  She sat with the
Ugandans and the Kenyans on the porches of refugee houses and with them
looked onto the skyscrapers at the approach of dusk.  Driving in her
car, she could remember the Vietnamese families clogging the sinks of
the refugee houses with rice; the sight and smell of the blood of
rotting vegetables in the refrigerators of those houses; the fire ants
that stung her around the refugee houses; mowing the yards when she
couldn't budge the refugees to do it; the disputes over whose food was
in the refrigerators or how much clothing she was supposed to supply
them with, and how the Ugandans tended to accumulate trash without ever
emptying it.  She remembered Senor Sanchez.  Making a detour back into
the city from the interstate, she decided to go to the refugee houses
and say "goodbye" even though a couple days ago she had chosen not to
tell the refugees that she was leaving in her usual obdurate opposition
to sentiment.  She could imagine herself telling Senor Sanchez about her
immediate departure and him saying, "Heaven forbid, you are really
leaving us now that you have a Master's in psychology from a great
university?."  She would say, "Yes, I always leave when I get Master's
degrees. This one from a great university equalizes a not so great one
in criminology at Emporia University."  "Do you have two Master's
degrees?"  "Yes," she would say, "I collect them."  "What will you do
with your knowledge?" he would ask.  "Be a better person for it and that
is all.  I'll sit on my butt in the future."  "Oh, very good," he would
say.  "Maybe you can put Fidel Castro on your lap while you sit and get
him to purr like a kitten."  "Oh, what an excellent idea," she would

Senor Sanchez came from Havana.  On that first day of their meeting
she gave him clothes from the Welcome Center, which he took.  She put
food in the refrigerator and yet he would rarely eat it.  "Necesito
volver a Miami, orita!  Esta lugar"-and there he rambled off in
passionate Cuban speed which she did not understand.  They sat on the
porch to the Welcome Center.   Gabriele handed him a pen and paper but
his calligraphy was not legible.  "Orita?  Que significa "orita?" she
asked.  He snapped his fingers fiercely and then rambled incommunicably.
Her eyes became stiff and large in her detest of his irascibility.
Sanchez would always whistle for her attention.  Then he would laugh at
her hating eyes; whistle again; look up in the air, and flap his arms in
an attempt to have her get him something.  Partial or complete hunger
strikes, she told him in Spanish would not hasten his trip back to Miami
but only make his stay intolerable for everyone.

"But you buy shit for us to eat!" he stormed one time.

"I'd have trouble getting it down too," she admitted.  "Suit
yourself.  If you die defiantly you will be my personal hero but the
carcass will stay in Houston.  We don't ship carcasses to Miami," she
said.  He was her personal favorite.

The Cubans told her one time that the U.S. was responsible for
putting Fidel Castro into power since the Cuban masses needed to support
any man whose rhetoric condemned American investments and the American
control of their economy; and her response was, "Well, which is it-if
you hate the guy so much it seems ridiculous to use such an argument
even though it does have some truth.  I know if I were to engage him he
would be a pussycat purring on my lap and you guys could make any
political cartoon on him you pleased."  The Africans once said that the
military cost of their civil wars were the result of Western colonial
boundaries fusing incompatible tribes into nations, keeping Africa from
being able to feed herself; and her response was, "Well, which is it--
If you hate the idea of imperialism why are we speaking in English now;
and why is your government trying to lure in foreign investment?"  When
the older Vietnamese individuals mentioned the war she listened to their
stories intensely through a rough translation. She listened to life's
horror and the ensuing trauma.  That was all she could do.  The past and
the future did not exist but traumas of the past went on perpetually.
Once she had to translate Thuc's "New House Rules for Immigrants" to the
Latinos as they sat before her on metal seats.  They were lectured that
the food given to them should be put in boxes and set in the
refrigerators so that they would know that the food was being
distributed equally and without a cause for bickering.  Thuc nodded her
Vietnamese face at Gabriele's ostensible translations when really
Gabriele was only giving a synopsis of what was being said with
commentary disparaging of the YMCA treatment of its refugees and a
system that was generally f--

There might have been poetic significance in having done this
mundane job: having taken the refugee children to the zoo with seventy
year old Jesus and the fifty year old Sanchez; having said the names of
the animals in English and the girls giving the Vietnamese equivalent;
having taken them to the social security office to get them cards with
designated numbers; having taken the Cambodian boy into the clothes room
of the Welcome Center to try on pants of various sizes but when he would
not put them on and take them off with an adult sense of speed, having
performed the unzipping and zipping herself; having taken the little
Cuban girl to the Vietnamese doctor when she had a fever although the
doctor only gave Gabriele the suggestion of Gatorade and crackers; and
having often heard the little Laotian girl imitating Gabriele's growls
through the tattered 1screen of a window although Gabriele's growls
toward the girl were real ones.  Still, all in all, she thought in the
car, it had been a waste of time to have prostituted herself to such an
agency.  She liked these refugees for various reasons but one less
altruistic reason was that she didn't have any other people whom she
liked and thus she needed to like them.  She chastised her maudlin
disposition and returned to the interstate.

Chapter Fifteen

After washing her wounds and cursing the cat,  she again picked it
up by the neck.  But this time she threw it outside into a light surface
of snow that had fallen an hour earlier. Frothy top layers sometimes
drifted about like desert sands in the occasional strong gusts.  They
went here and there as directionless as her mind that, in one respect,
had become detached from traditional roles and responsibilities, and in
another had sunk into the mire of motherhood. Inside closed doors, she
was resistant against the cat's cries.  Empathy, she told herself, was
not in her vocabulary.  But when the cat, named Mouse, could no longer
be heard, she stood outside on the steps and called for it until it at
last appeared from under the trailer. She warmed a bottle in one large
pan and a bit of milk for the cat in a saucepan. She had never warmed
milk for the cat before; but she decided that if she was doing it for
one she might as well do it for the other particularly with the advent
of the furriest one being subjected to the cold. When both animals were
fed she watched the television but its senseless action and its
fictitious and ludicrous sentimentalism were putting her into a numb and
depressed apathy.  It was deflating her of all energy to the point where
she couldn't follow the characters or plot since the figures were now
helter-skelter in the meaninglessness that was rife in her own mind.

To escape a stagnating and a somewhat discombobulating loss of
herself, she grabbed her sketchbook and drew the exact likeness of her
child with little time and effort. The book, like a photograph album,
was filled with her sketches in chronological order: stoic and erect
poses of her parents based more on childhood memories than some brief
reunions when she was a teen-ager; a 13 year old friend in her bicycle
club; the faces of drunken high school classmates when she was bar-
hopping and ignoring most mandates of her aunt and uncle; some of a trip
to Germany with her aunt; college friends; and yet some of unknown
Antarctica, a dreamy non-asthmatic land of ice mountains and valleys.
In such a place dreamed about and sketched from her asthmatic youth
onward neither rivers of flowing pollutants nor mountainous landfills
existed.  Within its solitary and pristine nature, there would be no
tacit or overt pressures to get a job and become someone.  In Antarctica
an exceptionally aware person would not have to go through the
degradation of being compelled to reinforce the rules and procedures of
a business or organization in order to have the income derived from a
job.  No professional, entrepreneurial, or common slaves would exist

In this place, which she fabricated as being no less habitable than
Greenland, there would at least be a small ecosystem of fish and seaweed
for food, and societies of walruses, seals, and penguins which she could
watch and record their social interaction. Such a record would be
exclusively for the one-person audience of Gabriele.  That being the
case, the purpose of an article to which author and reader were one
person without the prospect of extending further seemed a futile waste
of time; and yet if meaning in a record of the habits of species could
only be gained by sharing this information with others or if the whole
essence of meaning existed in edifying others and by shared experiences
this would be the source of another research paper which she would
conduct in Antarctica.

Daydreams gave movement and stimulation to housewives standing in
line at  supermarkets and provided an escape for mothers of infants who
sat alone as inert and purposeless as rocks until becoming instruments
to be used by their babies.  To find the source of his discomfort and
ease it was in a child's mind a woman's only role; and this particular
one also felt that his mother could also be manipulated by slight smiles
the temporary end of tantrums.  And in a sense she was manipulated to
toss him in the air, albeit only in the physical gesture itself for only
fools read expressions of love in these smiles and the cessation of
screams.  Gabriele accommodated him beyond what was necessary for his
welfare only because of the horrendous nature of his cries if she didn't
do so.  Throughout these months of care giving she did not have any
other world beyond the child. She tried to keep herself from being
flattened by the perfunctory role of bathing, feeding him, and changing
his diapers by telling herself that motherhood would pull her into the
swathes of human experience and its interconnectedness, that it would be
a novel learning experience on coexistence, that it might be a means of
duplicating the ideas of respected child development theorists so as to
corroborate or discredit them, and that he could be the specimen of an
experiment on how the instincts and proclivities of a male child might
be altered into more ethical variations although she wasn't quite able
to isolate the exact nature of the experiment and its parameters.  But
really these ideas did little to counter this pauper's version of ennui
that fogged over her perceptions.  What sustained her were her daydreams
and art.  Once she drew a surreal image of her baby in a business suit
with an attachZ case in his hand.  It was a partially adult caricature
of a being standing proudly alone on an ice mountain.  She drew its
contumely as master of itself in all of its avarice, ability to
facilitate its own pleasures.  It was a fragmented child glued back
together as an enraged whole and she accentuated this by drawing myriad
cracks within its porcelain skin. .  When she finished the sketch she
knew that charcoal was an ineffective tool for the ideas and the color
that rushed inside of her.  Still, the sketchbook was compact as an
album, and a bit of paper and charcoal were affordable.

Closing the sketchbook on a mental catharsis, she did pushups and
situps beside her director's chair and then aerobics to the televised
instructors who glowed in a little box in front of her. It all helped to
extract her from malaise. She really needed the physical exertion of
games like racket ball, and in a very self-centered way Betty began to
permeate her thoughts. The idea of her friendship became more palatable
to reminisce over.  Then she fell asleep with the ideas of Antarctica in
her mind.  When she woke, her thoughts were disconcerted and there was a
forlorn neediness sticky as the baby's vomit.  She needed a break from
solitude and an exit away from the obligations of motherhood that
tyrannized over her.  For the first time in her months of doing this she
needed an adult presence in her life and she yearned for the appearance
of this Rita/Lily person who lived somewhat nearby and was adult in the
sense that she could be spoken to.  Lily (she was mostly that and
preferred this label although she was really Rita) was supposed to have
come earlier and Gabriele wondered where this Rita/Lily person was. She
heard the baby crying. Maybe too much light in the trailer was
irritating his eyes. A silver light from the glare of the snow with its
power to make objects (even the baby) seem blindingly unreal was
bleeding throughout the whole trailer.  It captivated her and made her
think that the baby and its needs were nothing short of a dream.  She
stared out of the window to confirm that an outside world did indeed
exist.  She saw a neighbor's car pull out of a rocky driveway and one
young boy unsuccessfully trying to pull his brother on a sled in the
superficial layer of snow and left over hail.  Too many weeds were
blocking their progress.  Too many diapers were blocking her own.

She packed some baby food and disposable diapers in a bag.
Imitating the witch's dogma of the sanctity of the earth, for a few
months after Nathaniel's birth she had been adamant that she wouldn't
use disposable diapers even though she had yearned for their ease.  Back
then she saw mothers with money and impunity buying boxes of them at the
supermarket and she loathed these vile mothers who degraded the
environment.  Once, however, when she had a migraine headache while
experiencing some asthma problems and he was suffering from diarrhea she
had trudged over to the store with him in her arms and bought a box of
diapers.  From that point forward it became part of her habits.  To not
do so now would only inconvenience her.  Not even if thousands of
mothers went back to cloth diapers and their plastic over-panty
counterparts would such thoughtfulness save the environment.  It would
merely postpone the inevitable.  A slight postponement could not be
achieved by one alone and, even if it could, she didn't see that it
would merit her discomfort.

Giving up on the idea of Rita coming to her home, she fixed a tuna
sandwich for herself and ate.  Then she undressed the two of them; and
they sank into a soothing bubble bath.  Gabriele made soap castles for
her son, and smacked top stories off of them, which caused his eyes to
become wider with curiosity and his mouth to become circular in the
wonder of all things new.  She slowly sang a choral movement of
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, emphasizing the accent of each German vowel
and syllable exaggeratedly.  She internally debated the merit of giving
her child mendacities as she told him German nursery rhymes and lightly
washed his small body. She supposed that the sparked imagination that
could deliver him from being a somber, adult zombie, alive only in
insatiable hungers, was important enough that she didn't have to think
of such lies as bad.  Besides, if reality and goodness were perceived
differently by each individual, she didn't want to rush toward an
indictment even if she would be a most willing judge in rendering a
verdict in the Gabriele-made indictment of the past 7000 to 10,000 years
of civilization.

Drying herself and the baby in front of the window she put her
fingers into the crevices of the plastic blind.  She pressed down on one
rectangular piece of this thing called a blind and wondered what piece,
if any, her blind life had in this thing called society. She looked at
the outside world.  From the relatively quiet trailer park, it was hard
to imagine how much all the inhabitants of Ithaca spun around in life.
As futile as it was to spin, she thought, humans were not meant for
thought.  They were creatures meant to expend energy and to overtake
their world. Maybe this was needed for the evolution of a higher species
than man to exist on the planet. Sexual reproduction was not thought but
illusion and frenzy, which brought forth offspring.  It was overtaking
women. A human (women included although she found them a bit more
repulsive than the average human) was mostly all energy conquering the
planet, making it subordinate to human will.  If care was not given
toward the environment and humans overtook the planet too forcefully,
the world would expunge them from the list of species.  Any caretaker of
a child needed to spin from time to time too and Gabriele needed to do
this to fight off sensory deprivation. She pulled up the blind.  Naked,
she was in a pillar of light the way the so-called prophet, Joseph Smith
had been-only, being atheist, her pillar was only silver.  She knew that
a personification of the sun was absurd, as was all religion, which she
had dabbled in knowing about years earlier; and yet she did not want to
believe that this was all there was.  Television, movies, billboards,
and music all recorded that the rich, and happy people who played in
this survival of the fittest game so successfully did so by following
their desires with confidence and unapologetic insouciance.   These most
capable people monopolized over the world's resources leaving the vast
majority of humans destitute, hopeless, burdened by hard labor for
sustenance, and in some cases famished.  They chased around like mad men
trying to buy up the planet.  Some of the mad men did so while
repudiating their own mortality.  Others acknowledged their mortality
and so they told themselves they would gormandize while the feast was on
the table.  There had to be more than this.

She dressed him and herself warmly and when she was outside she
realized that she had overdone it.  The temperature was already above
freezing and the traces of snow were evaporating tracelessly, later to
be sucked up into a Heraclitus shaped cloud.  The odd weather, which was
becoming less odd annually, concerned her especially after the United
Nations report that the world temperature would rise two degrees over
the next three decades.  She knew, however, that there wasn't "a damned
thing" she could do about it.  She supposed that she might be able to
stand in front of Cornell University with placards advocating that human
beings go back to being the hunters and gatherers from whence they came.
She could stand there like a madwoman denouncing the past 7000-10,000
years.  Nothing would come out of it but 12 hours of sitting in a
jailhouse and then paying a fine.

After waiting over forty minutes for the rare and irregularly timed
buses to come by within this small city, she got on a bus with her baby
pouched onto her back.  A seat near a young man with a plain face who
was thumping his foot to the music of his portable radio was the only
one left.  She took it.  She was grateful to have it.  Having to balance
herself and a baby to the movements of a bus was something she had
mastered like a sport but it wasn't a preferable hobby.  Adagio liked
the bounces but she doubted that he would care to bounce off of a
window.  After the door of the bus was shut and the vehicle was
beginning to roll without any sudden speed it was rapped by a hand.  The
driver stopped the bus and folded the door again.  A woman around 20
years old entered.  She smiled and greeted Gabriele with diffident
childishness after shouting her name triumphantly to the back of the bus
and by a wave of her hand.  Then as the vehicle picked up speed her
expressions became more diffident and she stumbled to the back of the
bus. "What do I do?" she said.  "I don't see anywhere to sit."

"You'll have to stand," said Gabriele.

"What do I do?"

"Hold onto the railing," she scoffed.

Lily grabbed it and began to dangle there like a leaf on a tree.
"I guess you forgot me," she said timidly.

"No, you said that you would come in the morning.  I thought maybe
you had decided against coming."  Her expressions were hard.  It wasn't
her idea to get this Rita/Lily person to come with her but she didn't
own the services so she couldn't tell her to not come.  "Really, you
know, it isn't for everyone, Lily"

"Rita," she said.

Gabriele could never empirically detect the existence of a second
personality that the girl purportedly had, and as such she could not
believe that one personality came out in manic stages and the other
during depression.  When the Rita/Lily person called herself Rita and
when she called herself Lily she was both timid and fragile, and tended
to lie or imitate language like a parrot within her stages of
depression.  When she called herself Rita and when she called herself
Lily she was even a little timid and fragile within contumacious manic
fun.  A month earlier she had contradicted herself by saying that she
had not been sexually abused when she was young and that the patriarchal
abuse she was "always talking about" was infrequent sexual abuse
experienced as a teenager.  The abuser was also amorphous: at one time a
stepfather and another time a biological father.  Gabriele again
thought, "Once didn't she claim that her mother and father would soon be
experiencing their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary?  And yet there is a
stepfather?  What an interesting little liar."  These contradictions
were performed consistently by both of the "personalities."
Furthermore, she talked of enjoyable times that she experienced with her
parents.  These times seemed to be ongoing.  At any rate she spoke of
them happily instead of looking onto happy but deceased memories sadly.
It didn't appear that emotional trauma or abuse was bedizened as sexual
abuse in a display to get others to empathize with her tattered past.
It didn't seem that she was fabricating a happy family life scenario
like someone extirpating weeds to plant flowers.  That would be trauma-
induced schizophrenia that would not be attributed to a manic-depressive
who was being prescribed lithium.   She claimed to have had a
hysterectomy although neither childhood molestation nor cancer was
claimed as the culprit. Gabriele thought that having advised Rita to go
to a gynecologist once a year for a checkup might have brought on this
comment.  Maybe the Rita/Lily person fabricated information to keep a
conversation ongoing. Maybe she needed continual conversation because it
blocked out the moods that were a catalyst for divergent and erroneous
perspectives and ideas.  Gabriele's conjecture was that the split
personality was nothing but the Rita/Lily person's own way of justifying
why she had shifts in moods.

If she were sexually traumatized, it didn't come across with any
more poignancy than her reactions toward not knowing what to do when she
could not find anywhere to sit on the bus. She only became taciturn if
she felt that too many questions and too much scrutiny were being paid
toward her statements.  None of the pieces added up. Gabriele thought
that she did not know this person at all. She thought that she did not
know any person at anytime in her life really.  A person was never quite
known.  All one had were one's concoctions of plausible scenarios about
the person's history and how he or she might behave from empirical
personal experiences or what was witnessed when with others.  It wasn't
the person. The fact that one never knew anything didn't bother her.  It
was more of a mystery to walk around the planet in a loose blindfold.

"It isn't for everyone," Gabriele repeated.

"I want to go," said Rita. Will they tie me up until I make a vow
of secrecy by signing my allegiance in blood?  Something like that was
on TV."

"Hmm," said Gabriele.  "One takes chances in this life for sure.
Still, I'm afraid it's more mundane-boring-- than that.  You need to
keep away from that TV set, don't you think."

She giggled as if manic.  "No spells?"

"No spells," said Gabriele, "and vegetarian recipes afterward.
It is really quite boring."

"It is just like any church?"

Gabriele thought of the Wicca services.  They always reminded her
of Catholic masses but without the Eucharist.  However, they tapped into
a mystery of spiritual forces without putting a human face on the
creator or creation that was continually reinventing itself with each
new generation of flora and fauna.  She knew the guilt and fear of
pouring oneself from the container of traditions he or she was raised
with.  Most people needed to change containers to get any perspective on
how all of these beliefs were equal expressions of a wish for more than
one's silly temporal domain.  Still, someone who was definitely insecure
and probably needed to project herself as crazy did not seem like
someone suited for an experience at Wicca.  In Gabriele's judgment,
Rita/Lily was not in need of changing containers but rather, someone in
need of finding the liquid to put into a given container.

"Sort of," said Gabriele.

"They believe in God, don't they?"

"Heavens, you wondered whether they were devil worshipers a minute
ago.  Some might believe in God and gods. I can't speak for anyone else,
but I don't."

"And the devil?"

"No.  No, I've been certain of that since I was 4 years old.
People cause their own evil."

"Why don't you believe in God?"

"The reason for not believing.  The why," she spoke out loud
although the thoughts were really ones she meant to keep inside.  She
thought on this issue.  "Well, if my life is good-and I guess it is.
I'm healthy, well-educated, have food in my stomach and a roof over my

"And AdagioEyour baby, Nathaniel"

"Him too," she sighed.  "And my friendliness with you."  It was
often a stretch to even say "friendliness" in association to the
Rita/Lily person but she did not know what else to call their
association.  "Well, if I am a happy solipsistic person I might well
believe in God and appreciate my dizzying blessings but in doing this
I'd be guilty of saying that this god cared about me but didn't care for
those he allowed to starve or be eaten by a cannibal or forced into a
predicament of having to jump out of a burning building-whatever.  I
suppose he could care about some of us and not others, but wouldn't that
lower him to human levels?  If I really believed in God, then this is
the only god there is; and yet to be such a god it is quite obvious that
he or she is no different than you or meEand I don't know about you, but
I certainly can't create the Earth and the universe no matter how hard I
try, and believe me I try."  The baby began to scream.  It pierced all
the air of the bus.  "I'll be lucky if I make it to 90 and don't have to
wear diapers.  There is a chance he, she, or it exists as a being that
is not sympathetic about me or anyone else.  If he is this, he is so
large and so eternal, with no sense of human time, that a human life and
its brief series of short-lived motions on one obscure planet would be
inconsequential.  If so, he doesn't think about me any more than you
think about that last second you picked your nose.  Yes, I'm watching."
The Rita/Lily giggled manically despite her depression.  "Also, he isn't
one I can grasp so there isn't much sense in considering him. I'm just a
fire ant stinging anything that threatens me, cognizant of nothing least
of all the man that is there to squash me because of my sting.  An ant
might know about being threatened but he knows nothing about the being
that threatens him.  So it is with us and such a God."  She could tell
that the Rita/Lily person was not understanding much of the conversation
but her eyes seemed to register that she was in a godless universe for
fear had dilated her pupils.

Gabriele thought about this subject or quasi-subject of philosophy.
She wasn't even a philosopher and yet in a minute and a half she had
formulated a treatise and had proven it as much as was possible.  She
hadn't exactly proven that there wasn't a god.  She assumed that would
take an additional three minutes.  But she had proven that it was not a
worthwhile pursuit for humans to undertake.  Smoking marijuana from
morning until wee hours of the night seemed a more constructive use of
one's faculties.  She wondered how it was that Socrates could lose
himself for hours in a question that perplexed him when really all he
needed was just a few minutes.

"What did you eat today, Rita?"



"I ate well."


"OhE" Lily said in a contemplative pose.  A minute passed.  Then,
taking pride in thinking of an answer that would satisfy Gabriele she
said, "I did have an appleEand I did have some peanut butter.  That was
good.  Nutritious."

"Maybe it would be better if you went home to get something to eat.
I don't think you'd understand the implications of the ceremony anyhow."

"We areEwe are still going, aren't we toE"

"The baby and I are going there," Gabriele interrupted, hoping to
stop Lily from saying the word "witch" on a public bus and relegating
her life to strange stares.  "Maybe I'm wrong about God.  I'm sure I am.
What you can do for me right now in my ignorance is to go home and think
of different ways to discover him like smelling a fragrant flower or
putting coins into the Salvation Army tin cans.  If you were to hear
someone preaching at you for two hours you would be two hours from
telling me all those ways to find God."  Rita/Lily agreed and began to
get off of the bus.  Gabriele got up and yelled toward her.  " Wait a
second. Remember, you have to stand on the other side of the road to go
home."  Rita/Lily smiled.  Someone cared about her.  Indeed there was a

Gabriele went to the service, which was held at the house of the
new High Priestess.  However, being there, she found that the paternal
yearning to perform chants to Mother Earth and Father Sky a bit too much
for her taste.  Tarot, crystals to ward off negative energy, the black
attire, the candles, the chants, and those god awful vegetarian recipes
seemed outrageous.  The only dogma her contumacious mind could obey were
her own ideas.  Feeling at odds with the day, she went home earlier than
she had expected.

Chapter Sixteen

"He enjoys the pleasure.  He is the man.  The pleasure becomes the
man.  She is wedged there in the sharp gravel of the alley littered with
her videos.  It is good that she is there with the earth also digging in
carbon to carbon.  Face juxtaposed to the trashcans, and mouth gagged
with his strong hand that she fears (hands that could twist a head and
break a neck, and those that in younger days and as a smaller size, had
in fact snapped off the heads of crawdads) she is paralyzed.  She is
obsequious to him, the man.  Who would dispute the naturalness of a
woman being there for a man's pleasures? Who would dispute the docile
make of a woman to be ravaged?  He thinks that even with married couples
the relationship is probably conceived by desperate thrusts in a hole-
thrusts of pleasure; thrusts against being denizen to one's isolated
sphere; thrusts against maternal domination when one was a boy; thrusts
to have some form of intimacy not related to the misinterpretations of
language; thrusts against loneliness; thrusts like the hands of a thrill
seeking, dice rolling gambler who enjoys the uncertainty on whether or
not a conception would take place; thrusts as copulative sports; thrusts
to relieve tension; and thrusts of aggression against the abstraction of
nature that could efface the memory of a man at any moment in sudden
death.  If family matters like the intimacies of a man and his wife are
restrained expressions of a man's subconscious wishes, who could say
that he is unnatural?  Rape, not just sex, is what he knows a man to
really long for.  It is as Genghis Khan believed: 'To kill the
villagers, rape their women, burn their villages, and run off with their
horses--this is the good life.'"

Sang Huin crumbled up the sheet of paper.  Words were trapping him
in their clutter.  He tried to use their thrust to be because they were
all there was; and yet as he tried to steer himself in them they were
often nothing but bumper cars obstructing his every move or regular cars
piling onto each other in a crash.  He wanted to raze these walls of
wrecked cars. Nathaniel would not know of Genghis Khan.  Besides,
interesting as the thoughts might be, they weren't applicable to
Nathaniel unless he were to rewrite one of the earlier chapters.  How
could he be raping the woman when he, Sang Huin, had written him in his
car, repressing his savage impulses like a good social creature?  Also
if he, Sang Huin, were to interpolate such ideas, he told himself, he
would be like all those other writers who took pride in writing their
salacious pieces.  From the point of instigating pain on the giver of
life and the bloody cut of the umbilical cord soon came the knowledge of
mortality in the death of pets and vicissitudes and the ephemeral nature
of all things in childhood friendships thwarted by the mutability of its
members.  Its hormonal promptings to socialize more for meat to satisfy
hungers, the voracious appetite for human flesh, fornications to
maximize its pleasures and gain its intimacies, its ambitions toward
money, power and status within this ticking of limited time, the deaths
of family members, its own gauche stumbling attempts at family as an
auxiliary and then an outright replacement for the deterioration of this
first family, and it (equally so in so-called saints and laymen) was
graphic.   It was salacious.  It was violent.  It was the desperation of
one in mortality who wanted something for his short time on the planet.
And of art, what was it actually?  It was not so much a reflection of
the self in still waters as a reflection of something deeper sensed in
the rhythms of the falling rain and the movements of fictional others in
plotless lives plodding along as his was.  As another graphic creation
appealing to the hedonistic pleasure receptors of the brain he would
have more readers if the violence were to extremes.  Still, did he
really want to write something that others might imitate unwisely?  He
laughed.  This was a frivolous concern when he knew that nothing he
might write would be publishable.

And yet macabre as it was, he wanted to know the reason for his
sister's death through his creations.  He still wanted to know what had
brought her to that park, if it had been her boss who had done this to
her or a serial killer, and the motivation.  One could read profiles of
serial killers on the Internet.  He had done so; but even if a serial
killer had done this not all of them were the same.  He did not want a
generalization full of inaccuracies.  He wanted to know the real person
and what had caused him to act as he did.  He wanted to know of deep
repentance, and deep psychological travail on the part of the man-
whoever this man was. Earlier he had been so certain that the accused
had perpetrated the act but then a jury had acquitted this person or
quasi-person and as time went on he did not know anything.

He went back to the making of kimchee maundoo.  The flour had
already been made into dough that he had cut into pieces.  Now he
inserted the cooked pork and the kimchee and pinched the dough of these
cabbage dumplings into shape.  He boiled a little bit of hot water in
his rice cooker and set them in there to steam.   He felt so restless.
He wanted to be raptured from lonely nights that followed hard work in
this convenience store or for Seong Seob to call.  Every time he now
called his friend's cellular telephone number there was no answer.
Seong Seob had a program that would instantaneously change letters into
sound every time the computer dialed into a server but every time he e-
mailed him there was no response.  "So little did one know a person," he
thought.  Three days had gone by and he did not know of any altercation
that could have caused this absconding.  His mind was vertiginous. There
was nothing worse than an inexplicable rupture of a friendship, he
thought to himself; and yet he knew that this was not so.  North Korean
children were starving to death in a faltering totalitarian regime and
here he was playing in his personal life, and in so doing, getting hurt.
There were a lot worse things but a lot of good too. There was good
everywhere.  It was in the atoms themselves: in the steam rising above
the rice cooker or the feel of the hot pipes under the floor, which
warmed his bare feet in the cold room.  Man might miss the mark of
kindness but sometimes man tried for kindness since kindness was in the
atoms although self-preservation was in the selfish genes.  This good
was readily visible in simple pleasures when one was sagacious enough to
appreciate them like a child.  But Seong Seob would not leave his mind.
What could have happened?  Was this friend hit by a car?  After all, he
was blind.  Sung Huin did not know any of his friends or relatives, so
there was no one to call. Did this friend become busy?  Did Seong Seob
decide that the relationship was not for him?  Had he, Sung Huin,
personally said anything at all to cause this?  He reexamined their last
conversations.  The only thing he could remember was that he mentioned
to Seong Seob his own need to make more friends, but that wasn't meant
to negate the friendship that he had.  He didn't know.  He turned on the
television to obstruct his thoughts.

"Oh, no," thought Sang Huin.  His customers had talked about
buildings on fire in New York. He had been so busy all night that their
words and horrified expressions hadn't penetrated him. Moslems (the
speculation was Al Queida) had flown two jets into the World Trade
Center in Manhattan.  The American military channel was showing CNN
coverage of people jumping out of hundred story windows. Their bodies
were flailing against the winds as if they were having second thoughts.
He sat down on the edge of his bed.  The quandaries of his personal life
vanished and he became numb.  He kept saying to himself, "Oh, my. This
is the empirical evidence that there is no god."  Solipsistic for a
second, he then thought, "It is as if God is proving to me that he
doesn't exist-that I am right in what I recorded in the Gabriele and
Lily chapter." The incident itself shouldn't have been altogether
shocking. America was an arrogant country.  It thought that it was the
godly power that was allowed to prosper while God subjected heathen
people to dire circumstances. America felt it was entitled to bully all
nations and befriend Israel beyond human decency to keep the Christian
constituents, brethren of Israel, happy.  Its political engagements were
for its own economic and military hegemony instead of fairness and the
greater good.  It would be understandable, he thought, how the Moslems
might think of this as a reckoning of justice.  In ways it was no
surprise.  The real surprise was that there was no large palm of God out
there hovering like a cloud capturing these falling people within it.
What was incredible was that the power that would make a universe
couldn't capture a few humans into its clouds like nets.  Numb, he knew
without thinking of himself that this numbness would continue on for
many weeks and, to less extreme levels, for months and years.  It was an
eternal sting.  When he did look at his manuscript again to expound upon
it he thought, "Gabriele, sitting in the living room and waiting for a
customer, jotted down some notes about how to live godly in a godless
universe.  However, at present her time to really write it was being
usurped by Adagio."  Then he deleted it.

Chapter Seventeen

Out of the bus, she trudged back home in early evening through the
marshland of the melted snow that was refreezing treacherously. Then she
detoured a block west from the trailer park to the apartment complex
where Rita/Lily resided. Gabriele heard popular music playing in Lily's
apartment. She knocked.

"Uh...just a second," said Lily. Gabriele heard the movement of
papers and magazines being suddenly assorted and things being scooted.

"Who is it?"

"It's me. I don't give a flying f-- what your apartment looks like!"

"G-a-b-r-i-e-l-e!" Lily said the name like music. "Please wait a
minute, please," she said with childish delicacy.

For a few minutes Gabriele waited and listened to the rustling.
During a minute of that time she was interested because the rustling was
the rustling of a mind, and the mind was interesting indeed. "I'm
leaving, Lily.  In the bus you dropped one of your gloves from a pocket
in your coat. I'm leaving it right here." The radio music suddenly
changed to classical music with a National Public Radio DJ.  Gabriele
waited a couple more minutes.  "Goodbye," said Gabriele.

"Oh. I'll come over and get them." Gabriele did not know what that
meant.  She heard the unlocking of the door bedizen with many bolts. The
door opened. Gabriele handed her the glove without eye contact and
turned away. "I'm working," she said coldly.

"Thanks so much.  Thank you, Gabriele...well I could fix you some
coffee if you'd come in...well, I'll -- " Gabriele was already walking
away and did not, by choice, register the rest except for that redundant
word, "please."  The word was projected in such a melancholic and
extinguished tone that it caused her German heart to thaw for human
suffering. After descending a couple flights of stairs she paused,
thought, and then returned to the apartment.  She knocked on the door
and Lily opened it while trembling and in tears.

"Are you okay?" asked Gabriele.

"I'm nutty.  Don't hate me.  Please don't hate me."

"I don't."

"Everybody turns away from me. Why wouldn't they? I wash the same
plate over and over again for an hour.  I just want to not be hated.  I
just need a friend. I'm so scared like I'm falling in a dark pit and no
one cares about me."  Gabriele knew.  The dark pit was the anxiety of
cognizant man who knew of imminent death.  It was an anxiety exuding
into the bleeding of loneliness and only interaction with others
repressed that anxiety. That was for normal people. For those others who
did not fit easily into normality or categories of abnormality and who
could not capture or claim the illusion of self the loneliness was all
the more inexorable.

"I haven't turned away," said Gabriele.  Lily hugged her
clingingly.  Gabriele, not knowing how to really touch her, patted her
on the back. She felt as if her body were being traversed by a colony of
ants; and yet as repugnant as it felt being hugged in such a way, she
kept this feeling enclosed deep in her inner self for the purpose of
going beyond it and perhaps illustrating some sense of human kindness.
"When you do obsessive acts it isn't exactly nutty.  You are trying to
seek order in past trauma.  It's okay.  It will be okay."

Gabriele let her sob on her back until the catharsis was complete.
She then looked at her once again and a restoration of manic energy was
taking place. Still bleak and baggy from tears, Rita/Lily began to
smile. Gabriele thought about how vulnerable the human condition was.
Rita/Lily was an extreme case but the vulnerability was ubiquitous in
the species.  She knew that it stretched in a diminutive way even into
her self.  "And you know something," said Gabriele.  "You are probably
the only person in New York State to have germless plates.  Yours also
have an extra coating of soap on them to kill any forthcoming germs that
might land upon them. That's good especially with Saddam Hussein on the
loose.  Visitors won't mind eating with you at all."  Lily released her
grasp of Gabriele's figure and laughed manically.

"Sit down, sit down my good friend," said Lily.  "Let me hold the
baby."  Gabriele released him from the pouch and held him.  "No, I've
got him."  She sat down.  She did not trust her friendly acquaintance
holding the baby.  Also, she disliked those eyes, which were like those
of her aunt: eyes of needing to be a mommy.  A responsibility toward any
child was to raise him or her to be a good and independent creature.
Motherhood wasn't for gaining a purpose in life nor for having adoring
beings who would bring one a lifetime of "love" as well as a crutch to
get through life's lonely void.  Real love, if it were possible, should
not be self-serving.  No sooner had she thought this than Rita/Lily
said, "I wish I had a baby."

"Believe me, they aren't toys.  If they were toys I would have
returned this one months ago and gotten my money back.  They are needy
human beings.  They are a lot of thankless hard work and believe me you
don't want one.  If you think you are nutty now, a baby would make
shambles out of your biochemistry and throw you off the deep end if
being in love with a man didn't do it.  Besides, this one is too

"He looks angry now, doesn't he?  I've never seen an angry baby

"HuhEgood observation.  I've been thinking the same thing.  I had
never seen an angry baby until I had this one.  He was yelling so
horribly in the WICCA service that I had to gag him with a pacifier.  He
keeps spitting out this thing like a missile.  Who can blame him? I
often do the same thing myself."  She knew that in reality a baby
couldn't be angry for to have anger one needed a self.  Since self was
the product of thought and thought was the product of language her
creature could not be angry per se.  He was feeling discomfort.  That
was true.  But there wasn't a possibility of Adagio thinking of himself
as a bona fide individual that was distinct from other selves nor was it
possible for him to hate outside forces for the indignities they caused
him (although it was she who changed the diapers so she wasn't sure what
indignities there could be).  Still, it was indisputable that he
appeared to be angry.

She thought of her Aunt Peggy revolving pathetically around all the
self-centered members of her family like the Viking orbiter.  Peggy had
even orbited around Gabriele's parents gregariously.  Gabriele had been
excluded from that whole bunch.  With the exception of Peggy to some
limited degree, she had been banished to the companionship of her books
and to learn of greatness away from their commotion.  In childhood and
adolescence she kept the invisible pacifier in her mouth.  Then she went
away and when she rarely returned on brief visits she was as obdurate as
a Nazi.  Her rebellion had not been a disgorging of the pacifier, like
Nathaniel, but a subtle insurrection that would not cause Peggy's tears.
She was partial to calculated and unemotional reactions.  They were less
theatrical.  Their performances had more reality and substance.  Also,
such planned and subtle rebellions never brought emotional
counterattacks to make one feel guilty.  Now that she was a Mommy
herself, orbiting her life around her own beloved, they could not accuse
her of abandoning family.  Photographs of Nathaniel sent in the mail
once every few weeks seemed to be enough to get them off her back.

"Hello, little Nathaniel.  Maybe he understands us and knows we are
talking about him.  Do you think so?  Do you think that could be making
him angry?"

"Be careful.  He's got a tooth now. You don't want him to bite you.
Did you eat anything nutritious earlier?"

"Of course."

"No Ramen noodles this time?"

"No.  A salad-a wonderful nutritious salad and some nice nutritious
lithium.  Like you're always saying, I need to keep away from chocolate
andEwhat do you call themEoh, yeah, carbohydrates. And there are those
bad cholesterols too. You are smart.  Like you say, you keep me from
bouncing off of the walls.  That's what you always tell me. 'Sit down
and don't bounce off of the walls, kid.  I've already got one bouncing
baby.  I don't need a second.'" She gagged her mouth with her hand and
then disgorged her laughter.

"Okay, okay.  No more mocking of me," said Gabriele with a bashful

"Yes, I did what you told me to do, Gabriele.  I had a salad."  Her
voice leapt like a spark of electricity on a coil.  "I followed your
directions.  I always follow your directions. You are my good friend-my
best friend. I always want to follow your directions."  Suddenly it
dragged in a moment of unpleasant thoughts.  "But when I ate it I was
first thinking about you.  I was thinking that maybe you didn't like me.
I mean, you sent me away.  You didn't want me to go with you."  Gabriele
frowned.  She felt bored and she didn't want to rehash this petty
incident.  She wanted to go back home.  "You've got good reasons.  It
doesn't matter. And since I came back I've been thinking about all the
different things you can see God in.  Do you remember?  You told me to
do that for you.  I'm still working on it."

"Gee, thanks," said Gabriele indifferently.  "Well, gotta go."

"Please wait.  Here's what I want to tell you. You'll like hearing
this." She knew that to some degree she needed to interest Gabriele in
order to have her compassion. She feigned a smile but from her manic
energy it changed and became real.  Anecdotes were ready to disgorge
from her mouth. "When I was eating the nutritious salad I started to
feel lonely.  You know how lonely I can get with my head thumpin' at
thinking what my grandfather did to me all drunk and pressing against me
like he often did -- so I tried to call Gary-you know the guy in the
orange trailer -- but there was no answer.  I wanted to tell him I was
sorry about everything that happened this morning -- Oh, you do not know
what happened this morning. You've gotta hear what happened this
morning!  I wanted to say I was sorry but I wasn't sorry, you know,
because what happened was so funny and it was just like a blessing
because I prayed for it, you know.  I prayed for this type of a thing
and then it happened.   You don't know what happened this morning-Oh,
you've got to hear it. Do you want to hear everything?"  She began an
ongoing laughter as she narrated her anecdote, pausing in certain
moments to release her manic chortles.  "He came by this morning-you
should have seen him-'Rita, my darling,' he said-and I said, 'Rita's not
home.  Lily is here so maybe you should come back when Rita returns.'
'When will she return?'  'Next year,' I told him.  I told him next year.
I guess I was playing with himEwhat do you sayEflirting -- I don't know.
Maybe it was a little naughty, but men like that sort of thing, don't
you think so Gabriele?  I said, 'She's starting up a cosmetic company in
Africa.' He said, 'Oh, that's too long to wait.  I like both of you.
You're both Italian sweeties.' So then I invited him in.  He kicked off
his shoes, rubbing his feet together like he was trying to make fire,
wiggling toes on the footstool.  Those feet were so cute in his white
socks so dirty on the soles of his feet.  I guess that sounds strange,
doesn't it -- thinking a man's dirty socks were beautiful, but they
were.  I think so.  Maybe I'm crazy, but I was thinking so then-his
dirty souls. Do you think so, Gabriele.  Then he said something like,
"Before long, I'm gonna actually believe there's a second girl.  You've
got that influence over me, you know.  Africa?" he laughed like someone
who doesn't believe something somebody says.  I told him that I guessed
that they needed cosmetics in Africa.  He said that he was sure they
did.  "Which country," he asked.  "Timbuktu," I said.  "Is that so?," he
said.  He was playing with me.  "Too bad I never get to see both of you
at the same time.  Nothing better for a man than boobsy twins." I fixed
him breakfast and when we were eating some pancakes --- actually black
round things because I burnt them but he ate them like they were still
pancakes -- he was lookin' at my boobs.  'What big boobs you have,' he
said.  'Each one jiggles independently like two girls talking and
dancing at a disco.  They seem to be talking to me.'  'Don't look at
them.  It makes me nervous,' I said.  'How can I not?' he said.  'Look
at my face when you talk.  Not down there or I'll think you are a dirty
boy'  'I am,' he said.  I said to him that he was like the soles of his
feet.  "You are like the soles of your feet.  You have dirty souls.'
Then he persuaded me to take off my shirt so that he could hear them
better. He wanted to pull off my bra but I wouldn't allow him to do it -
- not at the kitchen table, not anywhere ever. He said that we could be
more private in the bedroom and I said no.  'Come on, sweetie,' he said.
I did want to kiss him-I've done that beforeEjust that, a little.  I
didn't want to get caught kissing or being without a shirt and near a
man.  And he kept on saying, 'Come on, sweetie." So I went back there
with him but only after he agreed that we would just kiss.  Anyhow, in
the bedroom he stripped into his underpants. I was so scared and I kept
telling him, 'No, No, I don't want that.  We can just kiss' but his
fingers kept going up there and down there but never around me in a nice
way.  Then we heard the door open and I knew it was one of the Semi-
independent counselors so I had to hide him in the closet.  The
counselor stayed for over an hour and when I opened up the closet there
he was with a round wet patch on his underwear.  He'd peed his
underwear. I laughed and pointed at his hole."

"I hope you told him that with a hole he was now the woman,"
Gabriele interjected.  Rita began laughing so hard that she choked on
her saliva. "You know, all of us have to be cautious -- not just with
men and sex (both of which are confusing and should be off limits TO
YOU) but everything and everybody.  You have to realize that in
everything people use each other even though it isn't altogether bad.
Think of it this way: if they don't use each other they would have no
use of them.  You just need to define if that person's use in yourself
is your use in him, her, them, whatever.  If they are the same, a
relationship can ensue.  That's my idea."

"Oh, you're so smart.  I wish I was smart like that. Do you need to
use me?" asked Rita/Lily with hopeful childish innocence.

Gabriele could not think of a use for her.  Simple compassion had
plagued her here.  She wanted to be home "Sure," she lied.  "Something
like that. Of course you are one of my few friendly people."  She looked
at her watch.  "My customer will come in another hour, Lilian."  Names
shifted like tectonic plates.  "I really should leave and put Adagio to
bed." She knew that Rita was still wondering to herself why Gabriele did
not teach her these German shoulder massage and acupuncture techniques
so that she could have her own customers. She knew that Rita yearned for
a vocation and a bit of pocket money. Rita/Lily's thoughts could be read
easily from her eyes.  She was so ingenuous and without guile or
calculation except when men made her nervous.  It was for this that
Gabriele actually liked her.

Rita picked up the pacifier that had just flown out of the
screaming child and handed it to Gabriele.  "I'll make some hot coffee
before you and Baby Nathaniel go out into the cold."

"Oh, all right," said Gabriele.  She was not capitulating to
outside pressure but only to the sense that she could not entirely part
from the discomfort of compassion, which was the only good trait of man
outside his creativity and intelligence.  Compassion was half rational.
The rest of its composition was that other version of love, the highest
of all primordial feelings.  Compassion, according to Gabriele, "flared
up at the damnedest of times," and as inconvenient as it was to have it,
she knew better than to forsake it.  She had her distasteful coffee in a
soapy cup, and once it was drunk she was pleased that by her
compassionate act she had made herself into a better creature; but she
knew that enough was enough. She needed to treat herself to compassion
by "getting out of Dodge".

In the trailer she took a shower to prepare herself for relieving a
customer; finished her session with him; laughed uncontrollably at his
angry grievance over the fact that in zipping up his pants with one hand
and reaching the other hand over to play with the little boy's fingers,
the baby had bit him; and then she had another shower. In the second
shower she kept remembering his words, "You'd better put that kid ina
cage if you want any men to step over'ere.  I'd better get me a tetanus
shot."  Her own laughter was so inordinate that it soon gave her a
headache. After swallowing some aspirin, she began her other job. She
preferred making a living on weekends to the rest of the week since it
was so much shorter. Outside a little physical prostitution, on weekends
she would freelance her "bull shit sketches"(her "mental prostitution)
that went with the little "asinine" sentiments that Hallmark Greeting
Cards sent to her; and then the week's work would be, for the most part,
over. At least she terminated the workweek after Sunday. She loathed
"prostituting" herself "to assholes" but the way she looked at it,
everything was a form of prostitution from the time that one washed and
blow-dried her hair that was cut in such a way that was aesthetically
pleasing to "Western farts controlling economic institutions" to rolls
that bound human thoughts in its limited pages, the social interaction
one engaged in to stay sane, and the tricks one did to get one's little
bowl of Alpo dog food.  It was her belief that physical prostitution was
less of a deleterious moral injustice to oneself than any other kind.
Done with a condom, its physical discomfort was also fairly safe and
brief.  Done enough times with strangers one did not care for, it
serendipitously shaped her into a regular Buddha reducing her desires
and appetites.

She cut the list of maudlin mottoes into myriad strips; put paper
clips around each strip, and then attached each one around a tarot card.
She lit the four or five candles that were on the kitchen table;
shuffled the deck; drank four cans of beer quickly; and then mumbled a
bitching mumble about having to prostitute herself.  With her visual
perception more mobile and her brain in a buzz, she unevenly laid out
the whole of this partial motto-mottled deck in a larger than Celtic
layout beginning with the cards patterned out as a cross; meditated on
each motto; and then drew her designs. The first motto that she
encountered was "Happy Birthday To A Grandson Who Has A Wonderful
Personality, Good Looks And A Fine Character. I Guess There Are Some
Things That Are Just Hereditary." Suddenly an image flashed through her
mind and she began to draw. For a moment she was completely stunned by
what she was drawing, and completely incredulous that this was coming
from her mind.

As she became aware of bearing this unique, full, and outrageous
creation so effortlessly, she fell into hysterical laughter at the
sketch of an old woman in a party hat, who smiles on sweetly as her
grandson, abandoning all of the packages surrounding him, lifts her
skirt curiously. But then for the non-pornographic version she made a
young man with a girlfriend bound hand-in-hand and a second hand
reaching out to his grandmother who stands near the birthday cake.  By
drawing this second version she was providing Hallmark with sentimental
froth for those who did not see that humans were replaceable in one's
own life and that the whole of a life, itself, was more froth splashed
up in the washing of time.  On a deeper albeit subliminal level she was
stating that one could go forward in time and still retain childish
affections.  She knew it was not so. Only minds like Parmenides and
Plato (a mind that she had) could conceptualize changeless eternity
within the entity.  Such unique individuals did not need to reminisce
about the past. She never kept a photograph album apart from her corpus
of sketches.  She didn't want to be one of the masses.  They were like
school children trying to find their loose-leaf homework that had been
taken from their hands by the winds and scattered behind them.

After she picked up the twentieth Tarot card to begin another
preliminary sketch, she became aware of the fact that the flickering
candles were making her extremely tired. She knew that being tired all
the time was more from the monotony of being a single parent and had
little to do with a full night of prostitution that she hadn't even yet
begun to complete. For a moment she blamed a woman's susceptibility to
become a mother for her blas? existence but it had been her choice to
remain pregnant and it was her choice to raise this being whom she could
have easily given away for adoption.  Likewise, it was her choice to not
seek employment. She had striven for isolation; but she hadn't done it
with absolute perfection. She had given birth to a child and driven him
into her shadows although she might have done it all alone. She knew
that she had that capacity. Human society was for her a boring fair
ground with the same quick-thrill rides and the same clones in freak
shows. The war of the "Kuwaiti theatre" and Saddam Hussein were freak
shows that Americans entertained themselves with from their television
shows. These freak shows bored and sickened her and yet she listened to
war broadcasts from her radio with the gluttony of other news junkies.
She liked radio.  She could imagine news more accurately without the
visual images.

Apart from what important minds could vaguely construe to be
permanent truth, human society was bereft of ontological meaning; the
West was on a collision path with the environment and Islamic
extremists; more and more societies possessed weapons of mass
destruction that had the potential force that was beyond her imagination
to conceive; and all societies were full of lies and manipulating fables
disguised as truths-their own Moseses parting their own Red Seas. To be
God's appointed bully of world events and His proponent of capitalism
and democratic tyranny was the American myth. She often asked herself
how she could even take on a janitorial job and sweep away the dirt of a
capitalistic institution.  How could she do functions that would keep it
nice and operative looking?  How could she empty its trash, and change
its burnt out light bulbs when that institution was one of a billion
which would bring about the destruction of the environment, the
vitiation of curiosity and innovation among pampered capitalists, and
often exploited third world workers. How could she contribute to society
when she did not believe in it?

The telephone rang.  "Hello, Lily"

"Rita speaking.  How did you know it was me?"

"I'm a supersensory," said Gabriele.

"What is that?"

"I'm a psychic-witch, Rita."

"Really?  Witching allows you to know who is on the phone?"

"I'm just joking."

"Oh. Am I disturbing you?"

" No, actually I was wanting something to keep me from falling
asleep.  What can I do for you?"

"Gary called.  He wants to see me tonight"

"It is nearly 10.  You aren't supposed to have visitors after 10.
Isn't that what those group home counselors of yours tell you?"

"He wants me to go to the convenience store and talk to him.  He
wants to meet me now. I told him I was in another call and that I'd call
him at the number on his pay phone booth.  I don't know what to say to

"I think you want to see him, don't you?"

"I want and I don't want."

"So you want to stop wanting to see him."

"Right.  What do I do?"

"I don't know.  He'll only look as he does for a short period of
years.  If you really want to not want a man picture him in what will be
his permanent state-the broken skeleton of another hundred and fifty
years.  That always works for me."

"Oh, thank you, Gabriele."

"Sure, Lily --- Rita/Lily.  Bye now." She hung up the telephone
and turned on the radio to keep herself awake. As she was listening to
the classical music of Gabrieli's Canzoni and her own internal voice
gabrieleishly, she left the table and began to warm the bottle
containing the baby's formula.  She fixed herself a large salad. She ate
it and a piece of cold leftover pizza while feeding the baby the bottle
of milk. As she was doing this she heard the news announcement of Saddam
Hussein deliberately flooding the gulf with oil and igniting some of the
Kuwaiti oil fields. Her mind was filled with the painful images of a
whole ecosystem made into black and tarred corpses. She put her hand
over her mouth and ran into the bathroom. She felt like vomiting and
attempted to do so but nothing came up. It was nothing but heartburn
from the pizza. She sat down and stayed emotionless in her director's
chair until the heartburn subsided. And once it had she fell asleep.

She dreamt of her Aunt Peggy. In the dream Peggy and Gabriele
stepped inside a grocery store. Both were wearing oxygen masks. All the
visible items of the store that were on the shelves were locked away
behind glass. All of the cashiers, grocery stockmen, and other personnel
were dead at their stations. Gabriele was around the age of five. She
hid her face in Peggy's dragging skirt.

"That's no way for a young lady to act," said Peggy as she reached
over to the shelves, and conducting pantomime, bent her hand as if it
were grasping an item, and then put it into a non-existent cart. She was
trying to save money by purchasing invisible items. Stinginess was what
had made them rich all of these years. "What is wrong with you?"
condemned the aunt. Gabriele pulled away from her, once again realizing
that only in reticent and hardened expressions would her inner
sensitivities be fortified from the real world. Looking at her aunt's
hardened expressions toward death that abounded everywhere she realized
that she should not expect anything new and kind in the state of Kansas.
After all, humans were adaptive animals.  The world was survival of the
fittest, and man surviving within the perils of his environment.  Why
should society be structured differently?  Why should being in Kansas
under the auspices of an aunt be different? She glanced down at the
corpses at her feet unflinchingly and then over to where Peggy was
supposedly picking up vegetables and fruit.   She could see decapitated
Turkish heads locked away behind glass.  They were on the refrigerated
shelf where the cantaloupes should have been.  The more she looked at
the Turkish heads the less impact they made upon her.  They were no
different than any other form of food.

"They are always locking up the cantaloupe. I don't know why they
do that," complained the aunt. They moved toward where the pastry
section should have been.

The aunt used gestures as if she were putting a large cake into an
invisible cart.   "They don't seem to have a chocolate cake with vanilla
icing.  It is vanilla and vanilla or chocolate and chocolate.  Now, you
remember that no one is to eat any of this cake until the dinner guests
have not only arrived but have finished eating their dinner and any
business conversation is completed.   Some important people have
scheduled a meeting with your uncle so they'll be at your birthday
party. To wine and dine them, as our family should, is very little to do
when they can help bring more business to your uncle. Don't pout over
your friends not being allowed to come.  Your uncle wouldn't have much
luck with business if  children were tearing through the place.  No
pouting about the fact that we can't find a chocolate cake with vanilla
icing either. Cakes like this don't have any taste so I can't see how
you'd know the difference if it hadn't been for you shopping with me

After they walked around the store using gestures of picking up
items, they walked up to the cash register.  Gabriele thought, "They're
dead!" but she remained taciturn.  Peggy put the invisible items on the
belt of the counter that remained still.  Peggy tilted up her chin
toward nothing and smiled affectedly as if she were responding to a
nonexistent cashier. "I'm very well. Thank you," said Peggy. Then her
face tilted back toward the
invisible items and the smile deadened.  Gabriele felt the slapping of
her back.  Peggy put her mouth toward Gabriele's ear.  She whispered,
"Stand up straight.  I don't want you to look like one of them" (meaning
the cashier that was supposedly ringing up the purchases although her
corpse was obviously rotting on the floor with maggots swarming in and
out of it.

"Give me that candy bar," scolded Peggy.  Gabriele looked at her
right hand.  It was curled with the fingers almost touching as if she
had a candy bar in her hand.  "You thought you would put a smart one on
me.  Hide it behind the laundry soap when I'm not looking.  Nothing gets
by me."

On their way home through the empty streets they quickly arrived
at their neighborhood when suddenly Peggy honked on a horn and slammed
on the brakes-ding-dong.  A young Korean boy and his sister were on the
road. Ding-dong. The girl had run in front of the car in an attempt to
get the ball that her brother had overthrown.  It was too late.  The car
slammed against her body. Peggy Peggy Ding-dong Peggy Ding-dong.

Gabriele woke to the sound of the doorbell. At first her mind tried
to grasp a concrete image that could go with the sound. Then she knew
it, and the cause of it. "Shit!" she said out loud. Now did she once
again have to prostitute herself in the physical domain with some
stranger at the door? She didn't want to work.  People worked for money
and they worked to escape the void.  They abhorred the void that they
would fall into if engaged in inaction.  There were times that doing
nothing did nothing for her either.  There were days when she was a
little lost in her lack of valid employment. But more times than not
being completely paralyzed on what she needed to do or would like to do
with her day was advantageous. Doing nothing but sitting in her living
room staring up at the walls and letting the void overtake her made her
all the wiser.  She seemed to be unlike the rest of humanity who had to
desperately see someone or go somewhere to escape slipping into

She did not want to see her clients any more than she wanted to
return to work as a staff psychologist in a high security prison on the
outskirts of Ithaca-a good job that she had taken upon graduating from
Rice University and had brought her here. Eight months doing that had
been enough. Eight weeks in a following job as an assistant director of
a girl's home babysitting "women creatures" who, gaining their freedom
at the age of 18 perpetuate the "classless undergrowth of society" had
been worse than the prisoners. Girls and prisoners were often like
comparing rotten apples and rotten oranges. There were times when she
thought that the prisoners had been worse. Their sexual man-on-the-make
innuendos had often frustrated parole assessments. In contrast, eight
weekends with her clients (give or take a weekend) was a lesser
prostitution.  By the fifth ringing of the doorbell she decided to
answer it so that it would stop ringing.

Two of them stood there: men. She knew she had an appointment with
client, but here were two of them.  She gave a seductive smile and then
informed them that she would only allow one of them at a time into her
domain.  The other would have to wait in the vehicle until his buddy
came out.  As one of them came in she thought to herself that she was
really performing an important social function.  Being a prison
psychologist or a girl's group home supervisor had been paperwork jobs.
The positions had not helped anyone.  Here, at a discount since she was
not beautiful, she relieved men of aggressive tendencies and stress.
They were less likely to beat up on their wives or open fire in a
McDonald's Restaurant as a consequence.  She even argued to herself that
by her service she was a bit like the Buddha who claimed that one should
take the middle of the road.  To her, that was the Buddha's tacit
endorsement that a little bit of prostitution was needed to sustain
oneself physically although it should never be taken to excesses.

Chapter Eighteen

Within the relationship he had not even been tempted to wander in
the labyrinths of dark hallways of bathhouses in the hope of stumbling
across that perfect form.  There had been less discontent even if the
passionate response had been the same.  The suicidal risk-taker drawn to
darkness, that relinquishing to the self-consumption of shadows, had
been somewhat tamed.  But now with this partner gone Sang Huin's mind
was slipping back into decadence.  Meandering and not feeling that the
ground one walked on was the least bit stable, desperate yearnings
prompted him to find pleasure and hope in appetites that swelled as
obsessions, burst, and were quickly gone no different than the
instinctual promptings that were within the dumbest of animals.  He
hadn't yet gone back to his desperate habits of bathhouses and the R-
rated petting in the gay movie theatres of conservative Soul but he
could still sense himself slipping away.

To have the monogamous prototype of a gay couple for others to
emulate there needed to be something giving it at least the suggestion
or illusion of stable ground.  And yet there was no higher entity to
suggest such a bonding. There were no symbolic marriage certificates
suggesting that society and the creator of the universe gave their
implicit endorsement of such mergers to which logic would say that they
would be no more preoccupied with than a man the mating habits of a rat
in a city park. Also, within this alternative channel of one's sexual
energy there were no children to rear, not that children remained such
forever.  Instead, for one who was gay there were only appetites and
one's erratic but less illusionary emotional responses as the substance
of a relationship.  These were one's only sense of being in a gay
relationship and as such they were the only compasses to find one's way
around. In some ways it was worse than a bathhouse labyrinth of complete
darkness for being in a relationship of this nature was not walking
around lost and trying to find the perfect form.  It was being disgorged
in passionate love for another human being and only this--this spray of
molecules, which lasted as long as the spray. That is not to say that
heterosexual couples did not experience the sense that these foundations
of relationships, family, and reality could never be shaken. They too
were sentient beings.  They too knew that they were constructing homes
in the San Andreas Fault Line.  The shaking was quite palpable but what
could they do other than pretend that what they were creating was
forever?  They too felt the rumblings of the separating earth that they
stood on.  Had it not been signatures on tenuous pieces of paper and the
responsibilities of children who again would not be such forever more of
them, thought Sang Huin, would feel as he did. What he was experiencing,
he told himself, was the exemplification of the human condition itself
and so he comforted himself that he was not strange.

One evening on his free day when the cello would not play for him
anything other than just notes and Gabriele was nothing but words of
clutter like the dirty socks he seemed to strew across his room, he
tried to avoid the callings of desperation and the wish to escape his
lonely malaise by changing a few florescent light bulbs that had been
flickering in the convenience store.  He was changing the second bulb on
the ladder, absconding from his temptations to go to a sauna, when he
heard a flurry of tapping as if the limbs of a tree were knocking
against a window.  It was a tapping or a light knocking.  He got down
from the ladder and followed it into his room.  He opened the door and
there was Saeng Seob. Sang Huin's bereaved mind had already buried him
as one more corpse of friendship that had amassed in a huge burial hill
since early childhood.  He did not know what to say.

"Can I come in?" asked Seong Seob.

"You came all the way here by yourself?" asked Sang Huin.

"I'm blind but I'm not ignorant of how to tell a taxi driver an
address," said Saeng Seob.

"Sure, come in," said Sang Huin indifferently.  He paused.  "Where
have you been?  I didn't know what happened to you.  I didn't know if
you were hurt.  I didn't have a telephone number to call anyone and ask
about you.  I didn't-"

"I was busy," said Saeng Seob.

Sang Huin thought about leaving this idea alone.  He thought about
just letting such a topic of discourse die there without comment.  The
wisp of air and the positioning of the tongue to begin, "So, what do you
want with me" was at the roof of his mouth.

"Maybe we should move in together," said Saeng Seob.

"Here?" asked Sang Huin.

"I don't know.  Somewhere."

"My job here means that I have to live here alone."

"You have a college education from America.  You shouldn't be
wasting yourself working at a convenience store. Go back to what you
were doing before.  I can get you private lessons.  It is Seoul.  There
is gold in them there hills."

Sang Huin laughed.  He felt at home within this American Hillbilly
colloquialism.  "All right," he said; and so this was what they did.
They stayed together that night and then looked for an apartment the
next morning. And then a year passed in living together: Seong Seob
finding jobs for him as one might find errands for schoolboys.  There
wasn't gold in the hills but there was plenty of silver and paper to
come into such wealthy homes bringing to families and sometimes their
businesses pure American English in the mouth of a Korean.  And each
morning, exuded from the little time not consumed in a personal life, a
quasi-professional life, sleep, and various bodily mandates, he worked
on Gabriele.  He found it interesting that their two worlds were now
converging in the respect that she was taking care of a baby at the time
of the first Gulf War with Iraq and he seemed to be living at the
inception of the second one that had even more of a chance of exploding
into something quite large and horrid within the presence or ghost of
Osama Bin Laden.

One day they went to visit a boy of one of those families, who
also had the name of Seong Seob.  He was suffering at Soul's Yonsei
University Hospital. The boy's mother, who was in the hallway, grabbed
Sang Huin's hand and enthusiastically took him into the room. The boy's
legs and feet were in casts and elevated. His face, bored and withdrawn,
brightened slightly as he said his first English word of the visit:
"Toy." Sang Huin laughed as he walked further into the room presenting
the board game to the boy. The hospital room looked almost the same as
an American hospital room except that there were four beds; no curtain
partitions; and cushioned benches next to each bed.

There were not many differences between American and Korean
lifestyles from what he could see. Korea was like living in the Ozarks
with high hills everywhere. He had lived in both Missouri and Texas
depending on the needs of his father's work.  They had homes in both
places. Both countries seemed to be arrogant and fortified within their
cultural expressions.  One certainly could never part a Korean from his
kimchee. Here women strapped babies behind their backs but even in a
rural town like Umsong many carried cellular telephones in their purses.
Pagers were only slowly becoming obsolete. Koreans' love of making their
country into a high tech Mecca was only secondary to their continued
devotion to their obsolete pagers.  When a college student's pager
vibrated with activity he or she would still run into a coffee shop to
call his or her friend on the table phones and wait for that person
there. There were video pangs (VCR rooms); table tennis rooms; noripangs
(Karaoke singing rooms); outdoor vendors and restaurants; crippled
singing beggars and vendors who crawled down pedestrian streets like
worms as they pushed their carts that blared traditional music from
small speakers, and sang into microphones; more mom and pop stores on
each block than one could count; and tight department stores with small
supermarkets underneath.

One could find in Chongju a McDonalds with an Internet caf?
underneath, Pizza Hut, and Baskin-Robbins Ice cream shops. One could
always find M&M chocolate candies and shirts displaying American
university logos. One could find American and Hong Kong movies, which
intrigued Koreans with their violence. Koreans lived under the
insecurities of North Korea and their students always found a subject
for protest but the country did not foment and fray in violence.

Sang Huin did not know why he was thinking this. He had always hated
Chongju and Umsong in particular. And yet rural scenes (like the
traveling markets in Umsong) were sort of sweet and real. The only
vestige rural traditions in Seoul were the traditional weddings at the
Korean Folk Village and traditional dancers no longer on the street
corners but contained in a theatre.

He thought about once when he and Yang Kwam were shopping for
clothes in Itaewan Dong of Seoul on that same street where he worked at
a convenience store. It was raining and cold and his sickness was
getting worse. Yang Kwam was wearing a shirt with the American flag on
it. Dizzy and disoriented, Sang Huin had followed that American flag in
subways, underground transfer corridors, exits, and sidewalks. He was
acting the same way now only he wasn't sick. He was following Seong Seob
into a relationship blindly to have concrete experiences and happiness
that could only be obtained in shared experiences.

Sang Huin (Shawn most of the time to Seong Seob) grabbed his blind
friend by the arm and awkwardly yanked him nudgingly to the child's bed.
It was a cocky American gesture with the sotto voce of one insinuating
by touch an inhibition to touch at all. The tepid force of this gesture
was, in part, of someone who had been abandoned inexplicably before.
Seong Seob had felt Shawn's awkward half-hearted attachment and
reticence for a year now.  He couldn't blame him since he realized his
part in bringing it about.  He had thought that living together would
smooth over everything and felt dismayed that a year later Sang Huin
still touched and spoke to him with the uncertainty of the two belonging
to each other.  And yet in bed it was compensated by desperate and
passionate thumping which was the best kind of love making there was.
Seong Seob needed to feel that another person hungered for him for this
was the contract. This was the binding of love.  It was a covenant with
this relationship-being that virtually all people deemed as higher than
themselves.   It was a belonging that all humans sought.

Sang Huin's mind questioned the legitimacy of human feelings and
the meaning of others' presence in his life, which without exception
seemed so fleeting.  His mind was in a torture chamber of its own
making.  He yearned for harder realities outside of one's experiences
and yet finding none he did not retreat to the limits of his feelings
and the input he got from his senses. Headstrong, he believed that there
had to be something that he was missing and so he went on searching like
a madman batted about in erratic thoughts.

"I wonder when he will leave again," he thought.  "I wonder what
little thing will be too much for him and cause him to hide like a
coward never to return again.  Will I get a hateful text message on my
cellular telephone?  Will this be how it will go awry?  It's bound to go
bad.  Everything changes.  How can a relationship change to be closer
than what it started out initially?" Although the present often stood
free without a guard, within the infliction of memory it roamed no
further than the prison gate that its imagination conjured up from past

And yet the ruminator that this "Shawn" was, he was still the
product of his culture that was not too keen on ruminations. One's
culture was prevalent in every thought even within an introvert like
himself.  Culture was a cookie cutter pressing out shape in the
amorphous dough of one's thoughts. It was the re-legitimization of Marx.
It was as Aristotle stated ambiguously as form shaping matter. It was
the American in him that had cajoled and coerced Seong Seob to the
hospital against his will according to the characteristics of his
nationality even if it had been done diffidently.

"I sarem i irum Seong Seob imnida. I sarem i Seong Seob imnida."
He paused and turned to the older Seong Seob.  "Go ahead.  You've been
introduced.  You both are each other.  Ask him how he is.  I can't speak
Korean as you well know every minute of everyday."  The older Seong Seob
laughed and then began to flutter within the native language that
animated him most.  Sang Huin watched as the three creatures (his
friend, the mother, and her son who was also named Seong Seob) expressed
their color and movement in Hanguk-mal.  He felt as if he were in a
flower market instead of a hospital. Flowers encompassed the boy in all
directions.  Sang Huin remembered being sick himself and hearing the
cryptic language that his mother and sister spoken around him.  That
cryptic language was now there in the confines of the walls of this
hospital room and unable to escape it he felt as if he were a minority
within it.  It was the ethereal language that had soared his family
above and away from his terrestrial boundaries.

Sang Huin thought about that time at the English winter camp when he
first met this now hospitalized boy, Seong Seob.  Everything proceeded
fine for a few days and then one night Seong Seob scathed his knees in
play and suddenly pulled off his pants in front of the school children
and staff. The boy exposed his vulnerabilities.  He showed the flimsy
mortal creature of man for what he was. Horror and tempestuous hatred
toward the mincing of one's boyhood innocence was in his animated eyes
and it mixed into his cries of despair. Five seconds earlier he had been
running and wrestling with the other boys and then with a little pain
and the rolling of a small stream of blood came the memories of being
run over by a truck and all of its ensuing surgeries.

Saeng Seob had not wanted to come; and even in the hospital room he
and the dog wanted to stay aloof.  Despite his more gregarious
tendencies and his smile so wide to compensate for the lack of
expression in his sunglass-confined orbs, Seong Seob and his dog stood
away from the railing of the bed.  The dog perceived its master's
nasocomial fears but instead of looking at the atmosphere as something
that might alert its senses, its face, every few moments, made movements
toward the door not much different than the master.  It had led the way
through outpatient units of hospitals before.  It knew its master's
aversion to places of suffering and could sense the gloom that pervaded
all rooms and corridors in a hospital. The surgeries on Seong Seob's
eyes had been performed when he was a boy to no avail. The dog had
escorted the master from the ages of 12 to 15 on subsequent visits that
procured nothing but the dread of hospitals.

The fear of hospitals seemed to be a fear of death.  Even a
cockroach was afraid of death and so to be afraid of such a thing,
thought Sang Huin, was natural.  And yet death itself was natural.  It
might well be liberation instead of annihilation.  It seemed absurd to
prejudge such a natural occurrence that living creatures knew nothing
about.  It might be as beautiful as all the flowers that surrounded the
bed of the boy, Seong Seob, who was playing with the board game that he
had unwrapped and opened from the box.  What did a cockroach know? For
it perceived nothing outside of its own physical survival.  What did a
dog know?  For it perceived hospitals as containers of human suffering
instead of deliverance from illness?

Sang Huin understood that Seong Seob was pursing a relationship
that was more than a bit at odds with the world in even the most
libertine culture.  He also acknowledged that Saeng Seob was visiting a
suffering boy whom he wanted to run away from.  Sang Huin could not do
much of anything to fill in the crevices of time and in awkward moments
of not knowing what to say he just stood there uncomfortably but with a
degree of appreciation for Seong Seob.  Sang Huin had empathy as deep as
the gods.

Chapter Nineteen

Had it not been for her youth that allowed her to engage in
prostitution, she would have been at the welfare office every month.
Each month she would have spent a day slowly making her way through the
queue to that ultimate goal of staring through a translucent partition
and into the faces of intake workers.  Necessity would have compelled
her, each time, to submit her documentation of a driver's license,
social security card, and statement of approval through a hole within
the glassy wall.  As a reticent and less than proud potential recipient
of food stamps and Aid for Dependent Children, she would have silently
deposited her artifacts depicting the reality of her existence and
watched these worker bees document her documentation and re-scrutinize
what had already been scrutinized and approved.

Monthly she would have been in a situation of needing to minimize
her imperturbable haughtiness so as to give cordial answers to questions
without being a formidable foe. She would have been in a situation of
needing to be sociable enough to give gentle but feigned smiles that
might have a hope of expediting the process of gaining benefits. In
front of the intake personnel her eye contact would have needed to be
constant but not so much so that it would have intimidated them. Poised
and courteous, but with the intelligence of her eyes aimed like lasers
for the incineration of the layers of their hearts, she would have
wanted them to quail without realizing that she was the culpable one
causing them to quail.

Had she gone into the welfare office each month she would have
needed to check her haughty disposition above all else since the
uneducated chattering clients, the wait, and the lowly workers abounded
and it all was such an indignity. Her tacit repugnance of the
apparatchik would not have been something that she could have restrained
fully.  She would have needed to let bits of it ooze out gradually and
undetectably or the intake workers could have forced her to go back to
the IM worker's office and explain why she hadn't gone on very many job
interviews and why someone with a Master's degree from Rice University
would need assistance at all. She would have hated them not for any
petty personal grievance (she didn't "give a flying f--" what they
thought of her) but for reasons totally outside herself: if it weren't
for derelicts and freeloaders, these welfare workers would have been
unemployed so it was outrageous of them to be condescending if not
outright hateful to the monthly recipients; and if it were not for such
do-nothings, breeders of illegitimate children, iconoclasts, and
antisocialites (all which summarized her in such a unique blend) these
client-intake workers would not have known the difference between being
indolent and being industrious.  Not having anyone to compare themselves
to, they might have lived their lives in ignorance as to the meaning of
such concepts, or worse, found their own paper producing jobs as the
lowest tier of the caste.

Had it not been for prostitution, she would have been leeching onto
public assistance as a menace to herself and society at large. Each
month Gabriele Sangfroid's hard expressions would have probably
intimidated the intake workers more than the useful amount and she might
have found herself forced to wait all morning and afternoon on an income
maintenance worker whose only wish would be to avoid dealing with such a
mad woman. Then in late afternoon a supervisor might have called her
name and she would have needed to encounter hateful stares for being a
flagrant mutineer of the American work ethic. There might have been the
undulating of the tongue reminding her that she was a Master's degree
holder. Such a supervisor, or a brave IM worker, would have shot
missiles of time consuming bureaucracy and lack of kindness at her and
Gabriele's laser eyes would have needed to shoot them down gently,
cordially, and politely. "I understand that someone with a Master's
Degree from Rice University could be gainfully employed.  I realize that
there are professional jobs available to me.  Right now I'm poor and I
have a baby.  I'm searching for the right job that will allow me to
continue to devote as much care for him that I can do.  You know the way
it is with mothers.  It is hard to find that employer who is sensitive
to the fact that one is a mother." Something like that might have been
what she would have communicated. It would have been coordinated with
the usual amount of artful guile and smiles to get her through life.

She knew a little about the Department of Social Services from
firsthand experience with them when she first moved to Ithaca. It was in
a day in December as cold and merciless as February when she went there.
Nathaniel or Adagio was a newborn at that time.  Back then, resigned to
the fact that she needed assistance so that she might continue with her
contemplation of life, she went into the New York Department of Social
Services with him in a bassinet.  She discovered how her laser beams
went through bullet proof glass separating the intake workers from the
waiting area and seemed to set fire to the cubicles housing the IM

In her first hour there she considered this agency a demeaning
place in all respects and that she shouldn't be partaking of services
here; and yet her feelings were muted by logic. and Gabriele was, after
all, a very logical person. She told herself that being here with
illiterate, drug dependent, and lethargic characters was not all that
different than her work as a staff psychologist in parole assessment at
the state prison. Encountering client abuse or being in the thickets as
one of the worms were just two equally uncomfortable situations. It was
really nothing more than a substitution of one form of abhorrence for
that of another.  Examined further, she couldn't see any difference
between being a freeloader and a worker apart from the worker's
obsession to think that his manner of wasting time was respectable.
Since they were the same apart from the means by which they chose to
fritter away their existence-the bums wanting to spend their time
getting something and the workers in producing it--she couldn't see any
sense in feeling more abhorrence from being behind the glass than in
front of it. Besides, this experience here also provided her with a new
perspective of what life was like to be one of the besmirched masses on
the opposite side of the fort.  Knowing multiple perspectives made her
contemplate the entity like Parmenides and contemplating the entity
brought her more in the realm of truth.

Looking onto it now, she did not think that these clients of hers
were any more or less degrading than collecting food stamps or in having
worked as a counselor in social services.  It had only been the need for
money that made her deign to any of this prostitution.

She owed a lot to the male need to be touched, to dive into the
high of an orgasm, and to have innate aggression exorcised by thrusts
within a subservient woman. It was a good profession that took little
time and no mental prostitution thereby allowing her to contemplate God
when the kid wasn't crying for bottles, changed diapers, and swift rides
in her arms.  It was also useful for society since men needed to be
exorcised of aggression.  After all, an excess of testosterone had kept
the planet in a type of marginal nightmare.  It certainly did not need
to be plunged into it further by a lack of prostitutes. Before she ever
worked again as a psychologist avowing the criminality of criminals or
giving nice little labels on Lilys, she would go back to the bad girl
group home.  Before she returned to the click-of-the-heels logic of
girls, she would become a janitor, a supermarket cashier, or a digger
for bottles in trashcans. And to keep away from all of it she would
continue with the present line of work as long as Adagio wasn't
traumatized by strange men drifting in and out of a trailer.  A child
needed the illusion of stability more than anyone else; but bills also
had to be paid.

And so time ran on like a shell-shocked soldier.  Already the boy
was four years old and precocious regarding one thing: the emotional
state of perplexity.  Strangers continued to come into his mother's
domain and like always he watched these unknown men come in and
mysteriously pat him on the head in passing. Many of her men felt a
twinge of awkwardness as if they had to go through a premature and
impotent little sentinel to get to her.  He was not sagacious enough to
understand that. He just wanted them to stay to talk with him instead of
always passing on to her. Ostensibly she looked more pleased to see them
than she did him.  He noticed this, but little did he know that after
having changed diapers for three years and having given him baths, she
was as disinterested in the male anatomy as a female could be; and so
not wanting sex, love, or godly companionship from them, all they had to
give her was money.

He was her human subject: and she wanted to keep all primitive and
barbaric impulses of pop-culture and unoriginal dogmatic religious
premises from influencing his brain.  She did this partly from the wish
to make him into a good person and partly from a scientific curiosity
about what would happen if she mixed strange chemicals together. She was
very curious about the outcome of child rearing; but more, there was fun
in the manipulation and fun in the unknown of what he would become each

She trashed her television set into the back of a closet and in his
bedroom she began daily puppet shows of a simplified self-made Hamlet or
King Lear adaptation and she would have him dance to the Ninth Symphony
of Beethoven in unique movements she called the sangfroid. She grew
pumpkin gardens and allowed him to feel the weight of the largest ones
against his small frame just as she had done for the past two years.
Now, for him, they had become gigantic balls that he couldn't pick up to
bounce or the wheels of tanks.  They were no longer the objects of
wonder they had been a year earlier.  She knew this inevitable truth but
she didn't mind it terribly. Losing the wonder of small things in ones
adventure to know bigger truths was the act of growing up and there was
nothing she could do to stop it.  She knew: the loss of wonder came upon
a child's innocence like a Turkish beheading.  She hoed around the 10
feet patch of garden and imagined the texture of one pumpkin she had
detached for him recording itself onto his psyche as he rolled on it and
scooted it around. She grew flowers so that molecules of smell and sight
could make sketchy replicas of flowers in his brain.  She wanted benign
if not benevolent influences to make him special. "There will be no
battery operated cars for this boy," she often told herself, for they
would lead to a preoccupation with movement, and from movement to
targets.  She did not want to nurture the hunter within him. Instead she
wanted to make him into a god for being alone in the celestial realm was
lonely business. The materialistic, hedonistic, shallow specimen of
movement had to go.

And yet they were not sedentary Buddha statuettes sitting on
shelves and so she often took him to an outdoor pool or a heated indoor
pool depending on the season. In earlier years, splashing in a baby pool
large enough that he could not easily see an end to its greatness
achieved the same aim as the oceans her father had taken her to.  Within
a large body of water one could always find Parmenides' entity and
Aristotle's Prime Mover as one pursued that innate human need for
physical movement. The realization that he was distressed about older
boys going into the large pool when he wasn't permitted to do so caused
her to lead him into deeper waters.  He floated on a swimming board and
sometimes on her palm under his chest as she treaded water beside him
and allowed him to experience the tide when the whales of human bodies
plunged in toward them

They also found mother and son bonding activities when lugging
plastic containers into an environmentally friendly grocery store. From
her example she wanted to nudge onto him a respect of Mother Earth, or
at least a reluctance to be reckless with her.  She wanted him to gain
the habit of being the least environmentally destructive that was
humanly possible. One of the bins had animal crackers and she would fill
a small plastic container with these dead carcasses. She abhorred the
drug of sugar and its impact on him but then she did not like enduring
the choleric displays of a drug addict who was being blocked from
getting his fix. He always craved for them like oxygen and there was
little one could do with cookie or animal cracker cravings but succumb
to them in the hope of getting some peace of mind. Always following the
grocery expedition she would take him to the zoo and feed him the
cracker carcasses only after he matched the animal cracker replicas to
the beasts they were approaching and could say the names of the zoo
animals in English, German, and Spanish.  He couldn't sputter out the
Latin so she had to give up on pushing that language into his head since
she couldn't pull it out of his mouth. They spent Sunday mornings
listening to church bells chime from their seats in a Laundromat. Around
10:30 the adjacent diner opened for business and from a window in one of
the walls they would place orders for French Cream Cheese sandwiches.
They were the oddest creatures in the Laundromat, dancing the sangfroid
to a cassette recording of Evard Grieg's Peer Gynt with bread and cream
cheese gushing in their mouths as they waited for their laundry to dry.

One day they went downtown to pay utility bills and afterwards they
walked around the campus of Cornell University.  At a bookstore she
became intrigued by a biography of Alfred Adler and for a couple minutes
she became fully immersed in the reading.  During this time he bypassed
her despite the fact that she had been trying to keep him tracked in the
corners of her eyes. Imagining ethereal voices calling to him, he veered
out the door and went to follow the Sun god that was descending into the
crevices of buildings. The display was, for him, an obvious invitation
of hide and seek. Pursuing the joy of the present moment, his
imagination interwove him in the tangle of one's sense of direction and
the deception of nature whose beauty belied its true disinterest in man
since it had no intention of obeying any mortal calls. Each building
became a whole forest, which overwhelmed him in vastness and darkness.

For over an hour she ran around like a mad woman frantically asking
strangers if they had seen a child.  She felt like Achilles chasing the
tortoise and she scolded herself for not having put him on an arm leash
the way she had when he was three. When at last she saw him staring down
at a gas lamp god reflected into the waters of a lifeless fountain she
at first wanted to pull down his pants and give him a beating with her
hard, powerful palm but she was taken off guard by his emotional embrace
and by her own unusual reactionary embrace of him. She held onto him
tightly even though she had never wanted to hold onto anything. A lucid
and excoriating speech was in her parched mouth but she could not say
it.  She only said the idea in her mind:" A bad man could have taken
you.  Don't you know that you can't run away from me?"  A tear even slid
down a cheek. She was a needy creature enmeshed in another being,
vulnerable and susceptible to his actions.  It was an uncomfortable
state that she had never wanted.

At last she said, "You little scoundrel."

"Yes," he said.  "I am your little scoundrel," and she laughed.  It
was as if he had read Nathaniel Hawthorne and he had cast himself into
the part of Pearl.

That night she had dreams of Achilles chasing a tortoise and of
different geometric shapes that were before her soon eluding her. She
woke up the next morning in a cranky mood.  Everything seemed to be
aloof and impalpable. She burnt the pancakes like Rita Lily and called
him to breakfast indifferently.  His wishes that the orange juice be put
into his new Mickey Mouse mug were fulfilled.  It was just the dumping
of one liquid content into another container.  She did this without
saying a word. She ate with him but she was hardened to his complaints
about the taste of the meal.  She was frowning and despondent the whole

Chapter Twenty

There was a triangular pack or trinity of stray dogs listlessly
wiping snouts in whatever might possibly be edible as they interweaved
around pedestrians' feet. Even the sniffing of its members was listless.
A foot kicked one dog and there was a high-pitched breathless squeal
that was scarcely audible. The dog pushed its weight and movement toward
its right side the way a boy might sink into genuflection when the wind
is knocked out of him and then it slunk off the sidewalk. Motionless for
a moment while still standing, it then opted for movement although it
could only stagger. It was not alone. A smaller dog from the trinity
followed disconcertedly.  It too veered in a right curve to the mirage
of a refuge on the edge of the road as if it were the mean between two
risky states. One hobbling and trying to yelp from a bit of a second
wind and the other accustomed to follow that which had secured its
sustenance at previous times, they walked together for a minute before
being flattened by a truck and swallowed into the pot hole mouth of the
pavement. The road, from its swallow, bloated and curved up like a hill
before its true form materialized. Ostensibly, it was a road on an
emerging hill but really it was the mutant growth of a head and a face.
Out of nowhere it inexplicably gained animation and being.  It was with
life and without purpose.  It was naked existence. The road would
swallow much more again and again, get bigger, replicate more of itself,
and die. "Mutations of the carbon of the planet are everywhere! I see it
now: species are cells mutating over time; planets are clusters of
cells; the galaxies are mere organs; and the universe is an organism.
Individuals play their parts, thinking themselves autonomous as does any
nucleus of a cell, but it isn't true." These were her thoughts as she
opened her eyes.

Gabriele woke up from a startled Heraclitus-flux of a nightmare the
way she had the previous night.  Like then, the only pressing logic
contained within such a strange dream was a geometric leitmotif that was
an insensible riddle.  It occurred to her how the subconscious was
composed exclusively of chaotic winds and not what she had at one time
thought of as a cryptic but sensible Nubian code for the astute
transcriber. It was nothing but vehement typhoon spirals with all
sensory input and significant long and short-term memories blowing
erratically inside of them.  It was a wonder that civilization existed
at all.  Humans were great wonders unto themselves to be able to carry
such a stir with a degree of poise. It was amazing that over so many
millenniums Homo sapiens found some degree of cooperation to exist.  It
was a wonder that Homo sapiens were able to develop dimensions of
themselves outside the frenzy that was trying to suck them back into it.
Rational ideas and decisions might well be influenced by the stir, but
still to get through the day thinking one's benign little ideas,
evaluating and rejecting most truculent impulses, and trying to make
sense of issues beyond ones instincts, hungers, fears, and anxieties was
an absolute miracle.  It was the greatest poise and magnanimity to
forfeit the compulsions of one's stir of night and to develop some
semblance of civilized society, benign and sensible. How strange, she
thought, that the subconscious was not universally declared as empirical
as a fingerprint, DNA evidence, or a signature on a sheet of paper
showing one's intent. Any startled awakening from a dream was the
tangible proof of her claim that the subconscious was not merely

On her pillow she leaned toward the end table with the idea of
picking up an alarm clock to look at the time when she saw a
handkerchief belonging to one of her anonymous clients laying beside it.
He had dropped it out of a pocket when putting on his pants hours
earlier and she remembered that she had found it after he had gone away.
She could see the large initials embroidered on it. It was no doubt the
embroidery of his special little lady.  The initials were MF.  Was M for
Michael? she asked unto herself, that high authority that answered all
of her questions.  "Maybe it is," her higher authority said, "But I
wouldn't be able to decipher what F means unless the first initial
stands for Mother."  She laughed out loud but she put the end of the
pillow up to her mouth to keep it muted.  She did not want to wake up
the boy.  So content within herself like a child, she could entertain
herself so easily.

She was sure that this internal voice was most illuminating in
intellectual luminaries but it was not unlike what Rita Lily had.  It
existed even in the most idiotic of people. Was a split personality a
real concept?  She had her doubts.  There were many erratic whims in any
human being. It was only by divorcing oneself from certain whims that
one might assimilate two or more spurious personalities, which would
only come about from being abused in extreme torturous cruelty.  What
was thought as split personalities existed, she theorized, to reduce
one's interaction with others whom have brought him or her horrific

She thought about this MF.  He had been polite to her and there
weren't too many like this.  He had been the one massaging her.  He had
wanted her own pleasure as much as his own. There weren't many like this
either.  He had even succeeded in making her tingle and have orgasms.
Even now, so many hours later, just the thought of him made her tingle.
She sniped at herself for entertaining this absurd tingle that women
often have long after the sexual stimulation is over.  "I am a female,"
she told herself, "but I'm no lowly woman." She picked up the clock. It
was 3:00 in the morning.  She told herself that if a client was giving
her spurious romantic notions she needed to distance herself. She needed
a break from physical prostitution.

Before Hallmark removed her from their list of freelance artists
for accidentally mailing in one of her profane sketches, she had had
this as another form of income.  Now the clients were all there was.
The income was sufficient to pay the bills and, more importantly, she
was able to afford canvas and a wide array of paints each month.  This
type of prostitution was in many ways treating her well.  It was
instrumental in giving a burgeoning artist canvas and contemplation but
she had to admit that the boy was becoming jealous of her time with
these men and she was losing professional objectivity. She decided that
she should not go into work for a day or two. She needed to not work in
her bed but instead to go on vacation outside of it.

In the morning as she was burning French toast for the boy she told
him that they would go to the beach.  After breakfast they made a straw
hat and wire and tissue paper sunglasses for Mouse to match the ones she
had once crafted for the boy months earlier. Then she put leashes around
both of them.  They got into her old brown Ford and drove to the Entity.

"Why's Rita/Lily not coming?"

"Well, I didn't invite her."

"How come?"

"Well, with the two of you and the two of her that would be two too
many.  Wouldn't you agree?"

He giggled as the jawbreaker moved from one part of his cheek to
the other.

"Do you really think that thing in your mouth tastes good?"

"Same as a sucker," he said.  "Do you want?"  He pulled it out of
his mouth.  The jawbreaker was coruscating with saliva. It was like a
gleaming moon.

"Gee, thanks, but I'm on a diet.  That is just too lovely but it
would be all the more so back in your mouth."


When they arrived she attached mouse to a stick stake that she
wedged deep into the sand.  Anywhere her boy wanted to roam he took her
with him because the two were shackled to each other. Running around
with the feel of wet sand plastering into the crevices of his toes in
its grounded rock and mud texture she could again see that sense of awe
and wonder that he had had when he was three. They began to twirl each
other around and the two of them fell down like dizzy drunks. As she sat
up she noticed that her son was staring directly at the sun.

"Adagio, don't look at the sun like that."

"Why?"  He turned to her.  He was still wearing his tissue paper
and wire sunglasses just like the cat.

"Why?  Because you don't want to be blind!"

"How can it blind me.  It is the sun."

"Does it feel good to look at it directly?"

"No, not really"

"Well, gee, the proof is in the pudding. If it hurts to look up at
it directly that is a prime indication to not do it."

"Huh?" he asked.

"Don't be so asinine.  Don't look at it directly," she scolded.

"It wants us to see it," he responded.

"Not directly! Maybe metaphorically," she said.  "Why do you think
that God put stupid animals like Mouse on four legs? Have you ever
thought about this issue?  Well, I have and let me tell you the reason.
If God hadn't forced dumb creatures like that to keep their front limbs
as feet they would be looking up at the sun and all of them would be
blind. Put simply, Mouse can't look up at the sun because God forced him
to stand on four legs; and with a person, he is usually brighter than a
mouse.  He is usually a little smarter than an animal so God encourages
him to buy sunglasses, suntan lotion, and to look down toward one's own
business: earthly matters like what you need to wear, the food you need
to fill your belly with, the story you are going to read, so on and so
forth." Each dour day of having to give the reasons behind things to
keep this little guy in one piece was exasperating and she felt that she
was falling into the mire of a never-ending story.

She wondered whether, in part, the religious stories (later to be
cut down into the book sized collections of scripture) had happened for
the same reason.

"Ambulatory two legged individuals need to have less of an ethereal
concentration. That's my take on it."

"Huh?" he asked.  He looked down at the sand, pulled up his glasses
onto his head, and said, "Let's make a house for the sun.  Maybe it will
get little and stay in there and we can stare at it through the

"Sounds good to me," said Gabriele.  "You can do that while I set
up house." She got up and pulled him toward the area where Mouse was
pacing in parched emptiness nervously.  She laid out a large rug near
the staked cat, erected an umbrella, and took out suntan lotion, a book,
Coka Cola, a CD player, and chewing tobacco from her large bag.  She put
on a hat that made her look like an Asian rice farmer.  Then she began
to listen to Paganini's Caprices. Meanwhile her son chose an area for
the construction site.  She wondered why he had chosen one plot of sand
over another plot. Sure, he was on a leash and so he did not have a wide
area to choose from; but a bigger question was why anyone would choose
to sit in one chair over another one in an audience where the seats were
not assigned. When one wasn't mandated to a table by one of those
restaurant hosts, why would a given customer choose one table over that
of another? That was a mystery.  Did the mind fool a person into
believing one spot was better than another one so that action could be
implemented without lots of hesitation?  She hadn't ever thought about
this point before. Her son brought to her many thoughts.  "That is one
good reason to keep him around," she kidded to herself.

"The sand won't stick."

"Well put enough water on it to make it sticky and not so much to
make it runny. Same as cement. You really should begin the foundation of
your castle closer to the water-only not so close that the waves get to
it.  That way you don't have to use so much bottled water."

"Well, then I need more rope," he said.

"Okay." She unraveled some of the rope from the leash that was
wound on her arm.  She allotted to him more freedom for his imaginary

"I want a house.  Not a castle.  I want it to have a bed and its
own room. The closet will be in--"

He droned on and on.  In some respects his little ideas were
charming but she had to turn off a great deal that he said to stay sane.
"Castle, house, house, castle--who gives a flying f--" permeated through
her brain tissue. She loved this egocentric being that had pulled out of
her body and she did not consider him too boring.  She watched him work
against the odds of crumbling sand and an avalanche of shoddy
construction, sculpting out some edifice that he attributed as having
meaning and a link to a civilized creator.  She watched this little
individual who was a microcosm of all the worker ants sculpting their
tunnels of dirt that would ultimately collapse.  None of them thought of
the ultimate corollary that human life and endeavors would go back to
nothingness and the entity that brought it all about.  She felt
compassion for him, for all of them, like a goddess looking on her
pathetic children. To some degree, she was pleased that he emulated her
myth of the sun.  Within moderation it was a good and humane
fabrication. The creation of her version of the creator was a meaningful
and benevolent lie of universal brotherhood and it seemed to her that
the ultimate goal of motherhood was to nurture humane behavior even if
one had to lie upon occasion.

To escape a violent world daydreams, liquor, and hallucinogens were
always warranted.  To counter innate violent inclinations there needed
to be a benevolent god to emulate-one that was palpable and touched
everyone and one to whom there weren't stories or rules to be
brainwashed in to gain membership. She did not know.  There were no
guidebooks for rearing children. One ad-libbed the best that one could
do. It was a daily chore and one where there weren't any vacations that
would allow objective contemplation of past mistakes.

She put away her book, Why I am not a Christian, by Bertrand
Russell.  The book needed to be perused deeply but she couldn't do that
because she needed to keep a part of one eye on the boy and a part of
the other eye on the cat. She went over to help him with his futile
task.  Within an hour they had constructed an elaborate castle.
Fulfilling his intentions, this peeping Tom became fixated on looking
through the windows of the Sun house in the hope of seeing an
anthropomorphic sun god shrinking himself into its corridors.  Finding
nothing but prolonged darkness, he returned to staring up at the clouds
and the bright intensity that was the sun.

She wanted to kick the sun castle.  She wanted to destroy it, to
blast it away, and to bring it back to its initial matter. She even
contemplated a more debase act.  She thought about unleashing Mouse and
tossing it onto the roof of the castle when Nathaniel was not looking--
however, she rationalized that a mother who blamed her actions on a cat
would be more despicable than a worm. This idea of framing culpability
on the cat swiftly left her consciousness to decompose back into
whatever neurotransmitter combinations and neurological circuitry had
come together to formulate it.  She felt irritated at herself for ever
reinventing Aten and for being Akhenaten forcing one more damnable myth
into the world.  After all, this one, for its merits, could ruin a boy's

Her desire to kick the sun god house had been, in part, from the
very desire to cling to it.  She wanted to keep Nathaniel in a state
preserved from society's lies, guile, opportunism, greed, and barbarity.
She also wanted this private and personal experience with him that no
one had shared since Aten's extinction in Egypt many thousands of years

From her most selfish inclinations she wanted his companionship to
avoid a loneliness that was so stagnating on her energies. Common sense
told her that he was a separate person and that his young and curious
being, enveloped in the freshness of experience that was part of
childhood, did not exist to free her from moments when the world just
looked old and musty; and yet there were times when feelings did not
succumb well to common sense. More altruistically, she wanted to keep
him from having to witness Turkish beheadings and other real world
models that would vitiate ideals to the realization that it was every
man for himself.  And yet he would be entering school soon: all
innocence in a bubble had to finally break.

She took him and the cat to the area where one could rent out inner
tubes.  After paying for one, she re-staked the cat and pushed her son
onto the waters where both son and mother were assailed by the rays of
the sun.  "Nathaniel," she said, "No more of that looking up into the
sky like a dreamy baboon.  Just watch the waves whisking us around."  As
she felt the undulations, she forgot about the Entity and vaguely
recalled that sexual exhilaration with MF.  Moments of Frenzy lived with
one no longer than any of the passing winds against one's face.  They
were pleasant sensations, boosts of fuel, giving one a positive outlook
toward more tangible encounters. With the exception of the best one,
they were never remembered.  But, rising up and down with the waves, she
was not remembering any encounter, but rather the best one.

In later days and weeks she avoided work and clients more than she
should have done and took Nathaniel to Niagara Falls, tiny falls in
rural Ithaca, and on little rides in amusement parks in different areas
of the state.  Except for the local falls, which were free, she just
said, "Charge please" and handed out a credit card to venders, ticket
salesmen, and hotels. She handed them her bit of plastic although she
knew this action would make her, even more, into a slave of her own
brothel. She wanted to take him to Lake Placid in the Adirondack
Mountains too but common sense prevailed. She had second thoughts about
the matter for she knew that she needed to cut back on her spending.
She had done these other things with him from a gluttony to celebrate
those rare whole days when mother and son were fully together because
she knew that they would not be endless. In short it had been a desire
to hold onto him.  The poet, Lucretius, was in her head.  It was he who
said, "The generations of living things pass in a short time, and like
runners hand on the torch of life."

He was now nearly the age of six and the near emergence of the
school year agitated her progressively. The vacations could not last
forever and had not lasted forever.  One reality after another budged
into a human's life pushing the former one into a surreal dream. For an
hour, each night, she would lock herself in her room, change into a
black negligee, write her fears in a journal by the light of a candle,
and often find her thoughts discombobulated by the sound of his voice.

"Gabriele," he whined one night behind the door.  She ignored him
in the hope he would go away.  She was trying to perfect the doggerel
she had written in her journal the previous night. "Don't yell/for you
can tell/I am myself/ to no one else/ and like an ocean that says I am,/
an ocean by the name of Pam/and an unmarried feminist named Sam,/ I am
so large that you can't see all of me even  if you are traveling in a
Pan AM./I just slap my waves on the shore./ I behave according to my
inner nature and don't ask for more./  I am an ocean and so sometimes
with my unfathomable depth it seems as if nothing touches me/ but it
does you will see./ Water evaporates from me./ Sailors sail in me./ It
is my glee/although I'm sometimes saddened by what is me."  She rather
liked the alliteration and the variations of the feet.  She thought that
her word choice was rather masterful although she wondered if the rhyme
scheme wasn't a bit excessive.

"Gabriele.  Will you play checkers with me?" he said through the

"I'm working," she said mildly

"There's nobody in there with you."

"I'm thinking.  Thinking is working."

"There's nobody in there with you.  You're not working," he said

"Working can be thinking.  It isn't always--" She stopped herself.
She was about ready to say, "It isn't always fucking."

"Mouse went to the bathroom in that fern thing and now there is
shitty dirt everywhere."

"Good God. Go clean it up."

"I don't know how."

"You know how to use a broom and a dustbin. Can't you sweep it into
the dustbin?  You remember how!"

"It smells so really badly.  If I go near it I'm gonna puke."

"I changed your diapers. It can't be worse than that.  Plug your
nose and try to do a little.  I'm tired of being the maid around here."

"I'm not a maid too."

"It's your cat."

"It's older than me.  How come it's my cat?"

"My dear, when it goes to the bathroom in areas it shouldn't it
becomes your cat."

"How come?"

"Because I'd--"  She stopped herself.  She was ready to say,
"Because if it did that and I were to own it alone I would stuff it."
Instead she said, "Because it likes you better."  That was a solid
argument.  The only thing he could ask would be why the cat liked him
better; and to ask such a thing would not have been beneficial to his
argument. She was eager to see if he was intelligent enough to say
nothing and he was.  He just paused.

"I feel lonely."

"I'll be out soon"

He jiggled the knob.  "How come you got that thing locked? I wanna
play checkers."  His egocentric words grated on her nerves no different
than barking dogs in the trailer park.  "I'm gonna ride my bike over to

"Not this late you're not."

"You gonna play checkers or am I gonna gota Chuck's?" Chuck was a
neighbor boy from the trailer park who recently moved into a house three
blocks away. At first she got up from her seat in a huff of anger to
prune such insolence but she couldn't help feeling amused by it so she
sat back down on her chair at the desk and smiled at the door. She
wondered what happened to the mild natured child of a month ago--the
child that was 5 but seemed like 4. This one seemed much older.  She
wondered if the formation of his first ultimatum was the emulation of an
ultimatum she had given to him and could not remember or if it was from
some innate incorrigible tendencies.  She spent an additional half hour
on the poem.  She couldn't see that she was making any improvements.
"Maybe it is perfect after all," she thought.

"Are you going to clean up the mess for Mommy?" she yelled. There
was no answer.

She wrote a few sentences in her journal. For the first time she
jokingly admitted, in its pages, the desire for MF to become a returning
client.  It wasn't really so much good sex that she craved as the
companionship of a male friend or friendship in general.  She had not
exchanged perspectives of adult realities (such as so and so sending a
resume through email on this advent called the Internet) nor had she
engaged in racket ball competition since her friendship with Betty at
Rice University.  She had not had a steady boyfriend since early in her
undergraduate education when she decided that men were special creatures
who were uniquely loathsome in no lesser degrees than women. She felt a
stagnancy of a life with little personal inside of it but her books,
paintings, and the child who would be going away to school fairly soon.
It was a bizarre version of stagnation in a life that by its prime
purposes should not have been stagnating at all: by being a mother, she
nurtured; by reading she was nurtured in the profound, and the profound
was so unlike the pointless levity of socializing with living creatures;
and by painting she rose into Godhood in the realm of ideas.  And yet
being wholly purposeful was such a solitary domain relegated to gods and
not to creatures of movement who needed frivolity and interplay of ideas
of the most shallow domain to feel alive. Between the need for a
physical feeling that one man had bewitched upon her and that need for
frivolity and friendship in the adult domain, she realized that such a
recipe could very well be a toxic combination of ingredients. It was the
baking of a vulnerability and she was not prone to consume
vulnerabilities. Women meandered around as gadabouts while consuming
their chocolaty vulnerability like bonbons but, she told herself, she
was not a lowly woman.

She opened the bedroom door and walked out.  She saw the fern in
the living room.  That one plant was intact, stagnant and alive in the
purpose of its pot as she was in hers.  She did not see any dirt
anyplace.  Even if Nathaniel had cleaned the floor it wouldn't have been
done so neatly.  Mouse stood there in front of her boldly.  "Mouse, did
you do something bad?"  The cat looked at her dumbfoundedly.  "Hmm, I
didn't think so," she said. So, the boy had lied to her about the cat
defecating in the fern's soil.  "How did he learn to lie?" she asked
herself and her higher authority said that a boy did not need a model:
he would use logic like a sophist.  He would display his rationale like
fireworks for dazzling and dazing one in darkness.  He would dazzle and
daze others into believing that such brevity of lights was a firm
reality. Her higher authority said that using logic to one's advantage
was an instinct no different than sucking and biting.  Then she saw that
the door was open.

"He didn't!" she said, knowing that he had. She put a bosky robe
over her black negligee.  In ways she was dressed as a soldier and as a
witch and yet neither role seemed too germane. Mother Earth, Father sky,
and her own wrath would do nothing to solve this situation. For five
minutes she ran out of the trailer park and a block down the road but
acting like a lunatic got her nothing but the split soul of a slipper.
She swung a fist in the air and, as if she were a female version of
Zeus, the lightning pierced the sky. Still, this did nothing for her.
Would she act the maternal part of worrying, crying, and feeling angry
and betrayed?  Such a part was too ludicrous to conceive. "What if he
gets lost?  What if he gets hit by a car?  What if he does?" she thought
to herself.  "I'm not linked to him forever. Even good mothers can't
monitor a child's movements every second of the day.  A child obeys his
own self-centered little voice despite a guardian's best intentions.
The world is a risky place. That's not my fault either.  I've done
nothing wrong."  She locked all doors and windows but the window in her
bedroom that she left half open.  When he crawled through it like a
thief hours later she gave him the spanking of his life.  She was not
sure if spanking was for the benefit of the child through negative
reinforcement or to release the stress of a child's guardian.  She
couldn't see that it mattered.

Chapter Twenty One

As the first days of the school year came and went, Gabriele still
vied for time through the sheer act of forgetting.  Whatever
apprehensions or misgivings she was experiencing about sending her child
to school, they were such that she, nonchalant, would never claim them
to be fears nor acknowledge any malaise about the inevitability of
external influences on her son.  And yet subliminal fears were pulling
her away unaware like a sleeping motorist who gets towed away with the
vehicle for the impounding.  She simply forgot about the date for the
school registration even though school buses were roaring about
everywhere in the city.  Hearing buses from a distance, she should have
easily remembered failing to enroll him in kindergarten the previous
year when he was five; but her denial was a thick opaque fog and what
she didn't do last year slipped from her no differently than enrolling
him into school this year.  The higher authority of self remained her
goddess; and it was keeping her wrapped in swaddling innocence.  It was
innocence consisting of a belief in the present moment that she had
serendipitously fallen into the previous autumn.

During last autumn, Adagio was particularly insistent on getting
her to do what Chuck's parents had done.  Restive, she had to bite her
lip and say nothing.  Emulating or just imitating someone else, even if
it were done for her son, made her feel awkward and look disconcerted if
not gauche; and yet, thinking about it for a moment, she had to admit
that raking leaves into piles was not a big request.   She knew that it
would take some scavenging to pull together a pile or two of leaves but
she decided that she could do this in her own unique way.  She didn't
mind simple challenges like this as long as she did not have to rake
someone else's yard.  She didn't want to meet neighbors for their small
talk would be too unbearable.  Those she had met before never used small
talk as a step in the ladder toward more engaging topics.  Each
conversation was as if the previous ones never happened. Also these
neighbors would pose personal questions to her and ask why she had so
many male friends coming to the trailer at all hours.  They would be
pure hypocrites as if they weren't having sexual relations in their own
trailers; and she would be there smiling at them but looking totally
baffled as to why these superficial matters of what one did (action)
instead of who one was (entity) were all that germane. She knew her
relations were more innocent than theirs.  Hers were for that needed
substance called money but theirs were for the sleaze and pleasure of
the moment; and if they were monogamous that showed an unnatural
behavior indicative of psychological dependency.  She could state
boldly, "I think you are trying to ask what I do with these men who come
to the trailer.  Right?  Of course, it is what you think.  I'm a
prostitute.  Be sure to tell all your buddies."  She could look them in
the eyes and smile during the ensuing discussions.  She would be able to
declare such things and then talk affably about one neighbor's
burgeoning tomatoes with superb poise but such frankness might wind up
with a policeman on her doorstep, a short jail term, and a fine. She
told herself that she would rake only in her own confined space clearly
demarcated by a wooden fence and that such action would involve just a
little imitation. She told herself that a little imitation was fine.
After all, she could not claim herself to be 100 percent original. Even
she imitated other people in myriad actions she never even considered
from buying fashionable shoes to not running butt-naked in the streets.

The action of raking was at first a begrudging fulfillment of a
simple request.  Then it became merely using the scanty resources of the
tiny plot surrounding the trailer to indifferently concoct what Chuck's
father had done easily in the yard of that new double-wide trailer with
its many and varied trees.  A half-hour into the raking it refreshingly
became an eagerly anticipated foray into childhood, which so many years
ago had been smashed under the metal belt wheels of a metaphorical tank.
With her son, she dived into piles, which she had raked for him in
tandem.  Inferior to the mellifluous smelling orange piles at Chuck's
home (so she was told), these smaller, much greener, and dirtier mounds
were a scanty mixture of dried leaves with freshly mowed weeds, sparse
grass, and a couple bags of mulch.  The piles were concocted but the
experience of falling into them was anything but concocted.  Her son,
and the summons of fulfilling her role as a mother, inadvertently led
her to the feel, taste, and smell of the present moment.  During those
times of last autumn, not yet experiencing the anxiety about necessarily
having to send him off to school, she fell into the entity; and
surprisingly, it wasn't something that one stared at from a beach.
Mouth half open while plunging head first into the itching and
asphyxiating pile of elements as dark as death, this ostensible foray
into childhood belied the fact that the dive was really into the main
artery of the heart of the entity.  In that moment of seeing, feeling,
smelling, and accidentally tasting the present moment other aspects of
it were equally enlightening.  She was surprised that for all her walks
on various beaches, trying to make sophisticated judgments about life to
match the thickets of her adult neurological connections, by comparison
these had been wasted hours.  Such attempts at staring at the ocean had
never brought her as close to the entity as this.  They didn't give her
much peace of mind.  The oceans might have untangled some of her twisted
logic but they always tangled her in a new set like seaweed adrift.
Surprised that the entity had not been in the string of sacrosanct words
one concatenated silently in the corners of the mind to catch truth the
way a spider makes a web to catch its prey, she had found it to be in
simple experiences gained from one's senses.  What was even more
surprising was that the entity could be sensed, for this empirical
experience refuted the theories of Parmenides and Plato.  Also, she was
surprised that it was her son who, by this leaves-jumping, was leading
her into a Gabrielish discovery and yet she told herself that being so
surprised was rather foolish in a way.  After all, how surprised should
one be that the entity was grounded in simple pleasures?  To be any
merit at all to a life, truth had to be more than mere abstraction.  And
considering that insatiable and avaricious desires of adulthood for
higher and more intense pleasures was a loose debris of discontentment
only in the realm of the child (only of running to the feel of the
wind, grass poking through the toes of the feet, the fascination of
changes of division in light and shadow, and all considered in the
pejorative as childish and foolish) was one on a solid form of

"Is it as simple as jumping in a bunch of leaves?" she posed to
herself incredulously.  But it was inevitable that with having had
craven parental defectors and deserters march in and out of her
nativity, having been run over by a tank, and having seen a Turkish
beheading, the simple pleasures had eluded her. Violence had caused her
to build her fort and look onto the world as a sentinel and sentinels
were not equated with childish sentiments."  She laughed in that strange
Gabrielish mixture of profound and morbid levity after rising up from
her second plunge into the pile and brushing off the leaf, grass, and
weed concoction.

Now, with four days into the school year already passed, she was
still avoiding the purchasing of groceries in the afternoons.  She told
herself that her artwork was more poignant when the sun was at its
fullest; but really it had been from an avoidance of the yellow school
buses that she would have encountered.  Subconsciously she wanted to
spend as much time with him as she could so she began to disregard the
policy of him going to bed at 9:00.  She would allow him to play games
until he fell asleep on the sofa forcing her to carry him off to his
bedroom.  Since that autumn of a year ago she was living in the present
moment through most of each day and disregarding the future as entirely
as a mortal could.  She repudiated any reality that went contrary to the
motif of finding the entity through simple pleasures of the senses
experienced in the present moment.  She told herself that simple
pleasures were the real and the true foundation of happiness but from
them arrogant and greedy man made preposterous edifices--complete
skyscrapers of selfishness and avarice that would fall down from any jet
being slammed into them (any life crisis that tenuous carbon creatures
of mortality were always bound to have).

[Sang Huin was seated on his bed with a laptop computer burning his
skin.  He realized that the World Trade Center metaphor was an
anachronism for the story of Gabriele and yet it seemed to him that an
omniscient and omnipresent narrator might well be 6 or 7 years ahead of
the time.]

On this day, as all others, she was mixing various vegetables into
a potpourri of soup that required as little culinary sense as an
undomesticated female needed to have.  With vegetables being dumped in a
crock-pot with a bit of water and pepper, it seemed to her that it was
impossible for much to go awry.  The lunch might have been monotonous
but having little else from which to make a negative judgment, her son
didn't complain about this point.  His only experience was soup, pasta,
and scrambled eggs that usually came out all right and pancakes and
French toast that had a 50 percent chance of being burnt beyond
recognition or going awry in the most unforeseen ways.  Outside of
giving objections about burnt comestibles, he was a truly ignorant
savage; and concerning matters of culinary taste that was how she cared
to keep him.  When she asked him to wash his hands he went over to the
sink and exclaimed, "Oh wow, chocolate."

"Get your hands out of that water!  That's nasty looking stuff.
Diarrhea looking, it seems to me."

"What's that?"

"The runs, my dear, the runs."

"The sink has the runs?  It's sick?"  She chuckled at his animistic
thinking.  Everything was alive in his judgment and, apart from some
wild untoward behavior, he was a creature who was sensitive to the
feelings of the whole world.  She wished that she could keep him like
this forever.  The water pressure became inconsistent and unevenly went
on and off in thrusts.  "Diarrhea and constipation at the same time--
hard life for the poor sink.  Well, until they solve the problem here--
whoever the they are--use bottled water.  Scrub with soap."  As she
stirred the soup she saw a yellow school bus drive into the trailer park
and a kindergartner leaving it.  Her half-day was over.  "Do you know
that girl?" she asked.

He looked out of the window.  "No, she's new; but anyway, I don't
play with them girls.  They don't know how to play catch.  They don't
know what to do with balls of all sorts."

"How would you know that?"

"Chuck told me."

"Is that a fact?  Well, you haven't seen your mother play racket
ball before.  It isn't exactly Olympic material but it's close.
Hmm...oh, my, we got so carried away with God only knows what and it
looks like we've missed the first day of classes once again.  Mama
Gabriele would teach you herself through all your twelve or thirteen
years if she didn't have to make a living.  Well, I don't know.  Let's
ponder this situation a bit longer."  She stared at the yellow bus
through her little kitchen window.  She abhorred it.  She stared at it
with the intensity of a female version of Zeus wanting to strike it with
lightning but the lightning backfired.  She felt a migraine headache
coming on.  "Honey, do me a favor and share some of this soup with
Mouse.  The two of you can eat outside.  Then take mouse for a walk in
the trailer park.  Go talk to the little Girl and see what she's up to.
All alone, not knowing anybody in the trailer park, you should say
hello."  Her sentences were dangling modifiers; but she did not care
about grammar since she had a headache.  "Most people if left all alone
will come to no good so go talk to her and save civilization."  This
idea went contrary to her life's model but she didn't care about the
contradiction.  She just wanted to stop the headache.  "Mommy's got to
think now.  Okay, scoot, scoot.  Take the bottle of water with you.  It
will be like a picnic."  She handed him the leash for the cat.  When he
was outside she locked the door.  She felt the migraine intensifying
like the footsteps of a wrathful god incrementally approaching her.  She
went into the bathroom and lit a joint.  She watched a cloud of smoke
rise into the fan that had been installed in the door.  She inhaled her
cannabis again and again.

"Miss Sangfroid--yes, you," said the higher authority with a sound
and derision of her Aunt Peggy's voice, "look at yourself cowering in a
toilet."  The form was inconsistent.  It subtly wavered between an
appearance similar to that of Peggy from long ago and her own ideal

"Motherhood was giving me an excruciating headache."  Gabriele
chuckled at herself like a bashful girl and smiled painfully.  "So I
took a sabbatical where I could get one--the little girl's room.  I'm
sorry."  She felt as if she were apologizing to her aunt for running
away to Ithaca and not letting her see Nathaniel.

"You're sorry.  You have your son walk the streets so you can cower
in here smoking pot on the pot and you are sorry.  Is that the only
thing you can say?"

Gabriele chuckled at the dual meaning of the word, pot, but she was
finding it more difficult to concentrate and she was beginning to feel
guilty for being, or at least being perceived as being, a negligent
mother.  She, the philosophical dictator of herself, was unlike her
hero, President Clinton.  She inhaled before Puritanical scrutiny and
admitted the inhalation.  "Sometimes the pot works better than the pills
at stopping the migraines, and sometimes as a mommy, a female needs to
get high wherever and whenever she can.  Please try to understand.
Don't be so critical--not now.  If you could speak less loudly, I'd
appreciate it.  I'm in pain here."

"Gabriele, such a lone soldier and yet so vulnerable," said the
form gently.  The form had become less blurry.  The higher authority was
now more distinct and Peggy was fading fast.  This goddess or
extraterrestrial of some kind had more of a peaceful countenance and a
more self-confident temerity than before.  Also, there was a halo about
her head since sick people needed their mothers, gods, and saints.

"Poor, Gaby, time has run by like a shell shocked soldier, and
she's accomplished nothing in her life but a bit of whoredom to keep
body and spirit together.  She wanted to be a revolutionary but has only
followed the natural course of having gotten older."

"I became a mother.  I can't call that nothing.  There is some
premature gray in my family but that isn't until one's late thirties--
early forties.  It won't happen to me.  I'll have beautiful dark hair
until they carry me off in a coffin--strike that, an urn for I will be
cremated to go back to the elements immediately."

"Look at that once stalwart face in the mirror--is this a human
face or a sponge that has sucked up too much water?"  The ET's tone of
voice was nurturing in spite of her words.

"I don't feel well."

"You've been overtaken by the mundane.  Look out of the window at
the volant clouds.  Any frothy and floating substance natural or
artificial will do: an ocean, trees waving in the winds, passing clouds,
soap spinning around in a washer.  Watching clouds in particular is
instrumental to appreciate the infinite possibilities of colliding atoms
in creation or the infinite possibilities of an unburdened life. Now
look down at your mundane and sedentary world so bereft of
possibilities, so insalubrious, so sickening.  See your son on the
steps.  There he is with fingers of one hand down the cat's throat, and
the other hand pinning it down. he's spoon feeding it

"Vegetable soup."

"Something.  There's a bowl, a spoon, and something that looks like
mud but okay, vegetable soup, " said the ET.  "Vegetables for a cat?
Strange!  Well, even though your son is outside, his presence is still
here.  It permeates everything in the trailer, doesn't it?  You couldn't
walk a minute from one room to the next without thinking of him: his
smell, his things, and messes are everywhere.  His storybooks and color
books are the only things neatly on his shelf because he doesn't like
them.  They aren't animated."

"He's always been partial to movement just like any boy."  She
paused and thought.  "Yeah, even when he goes out to play he is still
everywhere in here--every room.  It was just a few years ago, sitting on
this very pot, when he was yelling, 'Mommy come wipe me' or 'Gabey, come
wipe me'--something like that."

"Truly the sentimental substance of long term memories," said the
higher authority indifferently.

"I half way wanted to desert him in a pasture along the highway."

"I dare say.  Never part from your better instincts as they say.
You have, I must tell you my dear girl, failed your ideals.  The big toy
car running on D batteries, the matchbox cars he crashes into walls, and
that gun that shoots out big plunger shaped bullets that stick onto car
windows--all of these items you have succumbed to buying for him even
though initially you said that you wouldn't.  Yes, he is a creature of
movement.  You've known this all along.  And yet, choosing to ignore the
fact that he goes through such tirades in favor of thinking him as a
partner leading you to the entity, you have succumbed to his tantrums
and tears in supermarkets and five & dime stores.  You continually buy
him toys that aggravate his worse propensities and all those chocolate

"He is exploring his world.  He's trying on new versions of

"He is a demanding, egocentric creature of movement far from the
worlds of contemplation and you give into his extortion.  He gives
ultimatums and runs away from you at the drop of a hat only to be hugged
later.  What sort of graduate psychology classes at Rice University
taught you parenting techniques like that?"

She laughed.  "It is a little pathetic, I know."

"It's inane: a woman like you limiting herself to reproducing and
rearing young .You do this as though you can't find more purpose to life
than this...someone like you deigning to define herself in mortal roles
of birth, reproduction, and death to have someone to succeed you.  Have
you succumbed to being a woman, lost without a mommy role.  Fool,
experience your contumely now...Feel those wings that no one else has.
You are innately volant if left to yourself.  Cast him away.  Let him
fend for himself."  All the time the higher authority was smiling and
talking mildly like a mother reading a bedtime story.

"It isn't like that.  I brought him into the world.  I am
responsible for him.  Besides that, he has led me into--"

"Into leaves"

"Okay, into leaves; but now I have decided.  There will be no
school for this boy.  I'll keep him here with me."

"You silly bitch!" yelled her higher authority vehemently.  "I have
better things to do than argue with you about things so boring and
irrelevant to the scheme of things.  The boy's already one year behind
his peers.  Being led to the entity is well and good but if the kid's
your crutch you've got serious mental problems."

As if not hearing a word the higher authority was saying, Gabriele
mumbled to herself, "Maybe I could avoid putting him into kindergarten
again this year. Matter of fact, I'll teach him everything he needs to
know throughout grade school and then he can go to school with his peers
when he is 13.  He wouldn't like being in kindergarten as the oldest one
in the class anyway.  I can't imagine it to be a kinder garden than what
I have here in this home.  Likewise, he wouldn't like first grade a year
later because he'd be older than the other kids, or second grade, or the
third--"  The higher authority did not answer.  She had vanished with
the inhaling, coughing, and exhaling of a big puff of smoke; and
meanwhile Gabriele was high and smiling widely.  She was vertiginous
with so much life running through her veins that she did not want to
waste.  It, like the atoms of the cosmos, was pouring, clotting,
recycling, breaking up, and then flushing out into something new within

The marijuana had relaxed her and she was taking a piggy back ride
on the shoulders of a Heraclitus shaped cloud.  Opaque questions seemed
interlinked and mysteriously solved: of motion versus contemplation;
Parmenides versus Heraclitus; being the warm, soft, cuddly mother
depicted in Harlow's monkey experiments so as to not have a traumatized
monkey on her hands versus finding more purpose to life than reering
one's young; attachment versus independence; and the containment of her
son versus the release of him.  What solved these questions was the
analogy that just as solar systems in the spilling universe rarely have
planets capable of sustaining life, few are the contemplatives in the
movements of sociable and voracious man.  She told herself that she had
only one life and she would not dilute it for any "kid ."  She thought,
"I'll do my thing and let him do his" but what she really meant was that
she doubted that she was capable of making him into a better person if
she isolated him. With the exception of creative goddesses like herself,
a mind was a photocopy machine and a file cabinet.  Her son needed to go
to school and copy external forces for good or for bad and she needed to
pull away from motherhood to contemplate and create even if it meant
going back to her lonely solitary ways.

He felt as if he were extirpated and then without roots replanted
in foreign soil; but at the same time as if he were something less than
a boy and shrinking exponentially every moment he was in school.  Like
any kindergartner, daily he yearned for the mother he departed from and
could not understand why he was ushered so much of the week into a bus
that took him away from her.  He didn't protest despite being tearful.
He went like any semi-cognizant lamb and camouflaged himself shyly in
the thickets and brambles of himself.  Mrs. Graham told them to drink
their pints of milk and eat their graham crackers, pledge allegiance to
the flag, skip around her desk happily or not, draw the lines that were
the parameters of form and create form by means of color, bang sticks
and rattles rhythmically like African Pygmies, lace and tie shoes
neatly, say their ABCs and the sounds they symbolized, listen to stories
and articulate questions about them, obey calls for mandated naps on
mats where one could never sleep, and try not to interrupt these
activities with requests to go to the bathroom while at the same time
not wetting one's pants.  Two years went by.  He was in his second year.

Touch football, soccer, gymnastics, and all realms of movement in
PE class helped to compensate for this institutionalized life.  The
discomforts of confinement were also assuaged with the help of homeroom
mothers like his who brought in treats.  Gabriele's cheese and cracker
concoctions once each month were woefully inadequate in comparison to
preceding days of cupcakes; and cognizant of this she all the more
emoted a self-confident poise in the distribution of her crackers.  She
was certain that no one yearned for things but experiences; and by
believing in the pleasures he and his classmates would get from her
little efforts, she made it so.  Her presence was a lesson on the
quintessence of reality where successful emulation in superficial ways
could be bypassed if done confidently.  He was glad for anything that
would stifle the unpleasant but pervading shadow of Mrs. Dinosaur who
often forced him to stand under a coat rack with his nose against the
wall as coats and the shortage of breathable air encased him.   These
episodes happened for letting his imagination stow away on passing
vehicles he could see from the window.  She alone was not the gravamen
of his long list of grievances.  He hated having to keep track of paper
and pens, Little Orphan Annie with her preponderance of fat who aimed
dodge balls toward boys' balls, and Shirley and her hitgirls who, during
recesses, would often pin him down on the merry-go-round for the
smothering of kisses.

One day he was sitting in the classroom dreading another time of
having his energy subjugated to the mat when out of nowhere came a
mathematical question aimed and moving toward him as an arrow.  He felt
the sting, fidgeted worse than ever, perspired heavily, and began to
blush.  The corollary of looking stupid, he knew, would be his
inevitable smothering within the heavy coats of the clothes rack for not
being able to give an answer. He would be standing with his nose pressed
against a wall while his classmates took their naps.  He wanted to
answer the question and yet he couldn't see how he could do this if he
hadn't heard it.  He was at a loss and he resented his predicament.  He
wanted both to cry and put more holes into the pothole-faced teacher
with the aid of his rarely forsaken tools of rubber bands and quickly
manufactured spit wads.  His ethereal dreaminess, moving and emblazoned
with the sun, was an unrecognized form of experience.  Experience was
knowledge as intangible and ineffable as daydreams probably were; and
yet this dreaminess was being indicted by Mrs. Dinosaur and usurped by
her mathematical abstractions.  "I don't give a flying fuck about
numbers" he told her with the honesty Gabriele extolled and espoused as
well as her word choice.  His two front teeth were missing at the time
so as he literally spit out the opinion in a lisped and retarded noise
the teacher was stunned to hear profanity of the worse kind not only
coming from a boy that was her pupil but in the tone of Daffy Duck.
Words, wisps of vibrating air, which should have been as fleetingly
unreal as any passing wind, were such indelible things.  They couldn't
be dropped into one's shoes like doodled parodies of the teacher that he
and his classmates often exchanged so that they could be perused later
in the toilet and flushed away invisibly with urine and excrement.  In
ways, an idea in sound permeated another being immediately and non-
retractably like a noxious gas.

Before school had started it was as if Gabriele and Nathaniel were
completely alone except for the clients.  It was as if in her remote
choice for a home she had the idea that she could plant a society like a
garden, water it nicely, and extirpate it of weedy or symbiotic
associations.  It was as if she believed that when left to her guidance,
allowed to spin around happily in play according to his own benign
whims, and following nothing but the occasional orphic music of the ice-
cream truck, her son would be a self-contained paradigm of happiness.
Back then when he was four and five she had two years of really
believing that such bliss would go on perpetually and she half dreamed
that if she succeeded with him, she could advocate Gabrieleism
everywhere.  It would be her movement--a philosophy of self-containment
and human empowerment to ward off loneliness, curiosity, and hormones
that always stunted intelligent beings from pushing onto the next
species.  Guarding against these foibles, according to her, would make
one less of a sociable and hedonistic monster than he or she would be

And yet, despite her conviction that her strange life was the way
of truth, she had her misgivings about it.  There were times she hated
clients who had banged forcefully within her; and that tacit hate shot
out like lasers from her eyes.  It would be directed toward situations
such as loud cellular telephone conversationalists interrupting her
contemplative sketches in the park, and bank tellers who closed the
counters to go to lunch once she arrived at the head of the queue with
her non-taxable, ill-gotten gain.  With the bank tellers in particular
she wanted to snap off their noses like the ends of green beans.  Also,
there were times within her migraines when her stalwart ship felt puny
and spun around in waves with all abilities to track its coordinates
failing to operate.  In illness she often wondered if her ideas about
life were nothing but rabid madness.  She wondered, at times, if
denuding a human with her Gabrielism was like picking off the meat of
the man or woman to get to the real human; and since she was smart
enough to have reservations about her logic, everyday she continued to
put her son on the yellow school bus.  "Anyhow," she thought many times
through these three years, "rightfully, there are laws against keeping
children out of schools and breaking laws to live with an ignorant
savage is more trouble than its worth."  She was just sorry that she
couldn't afford the time to home school him herself or send him to a
private school.

From imagined ideas of Rita/Lily seemingly more real than the
carbon-flesh copy, Gabriele drew her sitting on a bench in the mall
admiring all the smiling facades of sociable creatures.  According to
Gabrielish logic, mall shoppers had such hobbies as retribution for
having to prostitute a living and having to forsake the slow
contemplation of truth and goodness in the fast pace monster called
society.  Gabriele drew anxious and hurried desperation in the smiles of
her mallhoppers, depicting them with the rectangular forms of
grasshoppers.  She thought about the fact that, outside of clients, Lily
was always her family's only peripheral link to society.  She wondered
if it had been for the fact that in her confused state and the changing
labels that doctors pinned her with, Lily was a society that was not
part of the society at large.

Gabriele was not intrigued with other people since she found
herself to be her main subject of interest and wonder.  Riding into the
depths of herself was oceanic but floating on the rivers of others in
conversation was like having to carry the raft half of the time because
the river consisted mostly of nothing but sledge and rocks.  Many were
the years in which she preferred the companionship of herself; and from
childhood her eyes became incrementally hard and cold to others.  She
had to admit that having a hard haughtiness did nothing to make the
world into a gentler and more affable place.  If one could shop for a
character before acquiring it she knew that hers would not be her first
choice; and yet she had it because it was the natural consequence of a
military family.  From her mother and then Peggy and her husband she had
been assailed with criticism (where she sat, where she stood, how she
sat, how she stood, what she put on her plate, why the quantity she put
on the plate, the time she spent in her room, the antisociable
tendencies that had to be inherent for anyone to go into a bedroom as
much as she did, how she parted her hair, whose comb she had used to
part it even though it was always her comb, what she wore, how she
shouldn't be wearing it since she shouldn't be acting like a princess or
a tomboy, why she chose idiots to associate with as friends...).  Still,
it had been to the glory of herself.  She told herself that the war
games within the boot camp of family had made her fortified.  She did
not need people in her life.  There might be some level of social
interaction that was psychologically indispensable but even this
sustenance of sociability could be breathed in and released as air.  She
would cling to no one; and she continually told herself that one day she
would go to Antarctica.

Gabriele thought again about her interaction with this woman,
Rita/Lily, Lily/Rita, Rita/Rita, or whatever.  Sometimes she was truly
empathic with her.  For the most part, she used her as that extra person
out there with whom she and Nathaniel could mention from time to time.
Mostly she didn't give a damn about her one way or the other.  Gabriele
rued and ruminated about this fact.  "Oh well, it's the human
condition," she told herself as if she had the perfect excuse.  She
wondered if Rita and all isolated halfwits needed to imagine someone as
caring about them even if such people really did not care.  Just by
being that imagined benefactress, she argued to herself, she helped the
girl without even having to do it in reality.  As she was thinking this
she heard knocking on the door.

She put a wad of tobacco into her mouth.  "Who is it?" asked
Gabriele as if there could be infinite possibilities.  "G-a-b-r-i-e-l-
e," sang Rita.  It was a sing-songey, monotonous, and lethargic tune.
"Identify yourself," said Gabriele and then quickly began to move the
canvas, tripod, brushes, and paint into her bedroom.  The painting
wasn't completed and she didn't want to respond to questions about it.
More importantly, she did not want to be made to feel that she owed the
painting or a replica of it to the unwitting model.  "I'm Lily."

"Lily who?"

Lily giggled audibly through the closed door.  "Lily Rita"

"Those are first names. What is your last name?"

"Nothing special.  Just Smith."

"Kennedy Smith of the Kennedy dynasty--are you from the family of
wealthy politicians?"

"No, nothing special.  Hardware store."

"A hardware tycoon."

"Dad's a worker; but he supervises others--a manager.  Nothing

"I think that is special."  She opened the door.  "Come in, Miss
Kennedy Smith.  Sit down over there while I pour you whiskey and cola
without the whiskey." She had to admit to herself that she found her
little friendship with Rita/Lily rather amusing.  What more could one
want from a friendship?  It was fresh air in the stale cellar of one's

As she took a bottle out of the refrigerator and poured the content
into glasses on the counter, she looked onto this pathetic society that
was hers.  Rita/Lily's feigned smile was lasting an abnormally long time
and waxed and waned awkwardly.  "Man problems?" asked Gabriele.

"Sort of," she giggled bashfully.  "Really, it's not having one.  I
feel lonely.  I don't know what to do with myself."

"You're not supposed to date anyhow.  Didn't you say that the group
home got you a job waiting on tables in the concession area of the
skating rink?"

"Semi-independent.  I'm in semi-independent.  Semi-independent

"Whatever.  Same counselors; but okay, let's be precise: semi."

"I feel alone in the evenings."

"Read a book."

"Too tired to read.  Gabriele, why don't you get married?"

Gabriele brought the drinks and sat down in her director's chair.

"I'd need a boyfriend first."  She wondered if she had one, a
hundred, or zero.  She wasn't exactly sure what constituted a
relationship with a man.  Furthermore, she wasn't even remotely sure
what a marriage was either: a couple of signatures on a sheet of paper,
matching bath towels that said his and hers, or a declaration of two
people as a unit which would then be naively believed and acknowledged
by outsiders as having legitimacy.

"You are so clever and smart.  Clever and smart guys would die for
someone like you."

"What would I want with a man, Lily?  I've already got the kid and
he would fritter away my time every chance he could if he weren't in
school.  My god, after being a masseuse all day, it's bad enough to have
one more male around here let alone two.  I don't want to devote the
time Adagio doesn't extract from me to fulfill more male demands.  Then
there are all those womanly things: to continually ask myself if some
guy really loves me and how I can become slimmer and more desirable for
him and all that crap. Worst of it all would be jealousy when he sleeps
with someone else on a bad hair day.  It always happens.  I'd be eroded
away and then I'd start asking myself who the hell I was"

"But love--not being alone."

"Perfect equation.  Love is many selfish equations like that.  I
don't know.  A female has to be a puppet taking back her own gossamer
strings or she will follow the movements of love into the abyss.  As for
being alone, it is the only time to be free to sail in oneself without
having to answer to anybody.  A relationship is like trying to put on
some fashionable pants that are a size too small with him trying to get
into them too.  No thanks."  She spit out her tobacco in the trashcan
and then drank the cola.

"Is that stuff good?" asked Lily.

"Snuff, Lilly.  Not stuff!  Do you want some chewing tobacco?"

"No...that is I don't think so...well, maybe a little."  She
laughed.  Gabriele shared the substance.  Lily began to chew for a few
seconds and then reached her finger in to extract it from the crevices
of her teeth.

"Do you have an empty beer can?" she panicked.  She began to gag.
Gabriele moved the trashcan near Lily and bent her face.  She spit it
out but didn't vomit.

"Maybe you should wash out your mouth and then drink your coke."

Rita/Lily ran to the bathroom, turned on the tap water, and then
began gargling with water and then with mouthwash.

"That minty stuff sure has a good taste, Rita,"  yelled Gabriele
toward the bathroom. "Make sure you don't swallow the damned stuff or
we'll be doing this again."

Lily gargled, spat, repeated the process, and then yelled back
toward Gabriele,"Do you miss Nathaniel, your Adagio?"

"Lily, you ask the same old questions again and again forcing me to
come up with new answers to everything from why I don't have a boyfriend
to if I take a crap when I get up in the mornings."

Rita laughed awkwardly for both were subjects she often asked
about.  "I want..."  She gargled again and spat the mouthwash out.  "I
like to find out if people's ideas change."

"This people doesn't change.  I'm glad the little--"  She was going
to say "little fucker" but she censored it out.  "...guy is in school as
I've said for the umpteenth time."

Gabriele chortled when Rita/Lily came back looking battered and
weakened from her experience with tobacco.  "Rita," she said, "It will
take practice but before long you'll get the hang of it.  You'll be
chewing tobacco just like one of the boys.  Then after more years of
experience...if you'll be a pro' like me.  You might even
begin to condition American Barbie dames in the proper ways to spit it
out like a cannon."

Lily laughed diffidently since she was in a depressed state and
words were running about nonsensibly in her head like the yelping cries
of wild savages. She sat down stiff as lead and Gabriele could see the
terror of visceral loneliness in her face.  She was afraid that the girl
would be anchored like that during the rest of the day as a hindrance of
her painting.  "Oh," said Rita/Lily suddenly out of her saturnine
depths, "I nearly forgot.  The call.  In my room."

"What call?"

"Huh?" asked the obtuse girl

"What call?"

Rita tried to reign in her thoughts and focus on where she was at
and her relationship with Gabriele.  "The school couldn't reach you.
You've got to call them. They said it was really important."  From her
pocket she pulled out a slip of paper that had a phone number on it and
gave it to Gabriele.

"Hmm, okay," said Gabriele.  She took her telephone out of a drawer
and put it in the phone jack.

When she arrived at the door of the home room with a bag of treats
dangling inside a fist, her son's teacher told her that she had go go to
the principal's office.  The word, "must," took some swallowing but she
accepted it magnanimously.  She could see that the teacher, Mrs. Recla,
found her daunting.  The proof was in the face that was being taxed by
not being able to frown.  She knew that she was emoting a more civil
aversion than the teacher could muster.  As Gabriele tried not to
conceptualize her as "the dinosaur" or "Reclasaur," demeaning second
grader terminology, there was a subtle smile on her countenance (feigned
or not).  In part, it was amusement about the word, Reclasaur, but it
was mostly of one who was valiently beyond worldly matters.  With her
equanimity she also displayed an obdurate, formidable haughtiness no
different than any engraving or statue from Akhenaten to Lincoln, or
Joan of Ark to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Indifferent to the fact that this was not her appointed time for
being a homeroom mother and by the disposition of a teacher who was
usually more affable (feigned or not), Gabriele officiously submitted
her treats.  Like a poorly written essay, they were glanced at and
rejected snobbishly.  She wanted to check up on her son who often sat in
the back row but she was prohibited from looking into the room.  She
wanted to ask the Reclasaur what he had done to make her so "uptight"
but Gabriele changed her mind.  She decided that unless it were an
emergency (and the teacher would have undoubtedly given the details of
an emergency) she should defer knowledge as long as she could.  She
imagined that once she returned home there would be more to swallow than
just cheese and crackers.

In the girl's room Gabriele lit a cigarette and stared at herself
in a mirror.  She didn't care what others thought of her but in a world
where only appearances mattered she thought that wrapping up what little
beauty she did posess would go further with a female principal.   She
did not believe in appearances but she was pragmatic enough to realize
that appearances had their uses.  Eyeglasses would make her look more
intellectual if not outright erudite and opaque.  Her turgid opinions
would have more merit in such a look.  She pinned her hair up into a bun
and put on some tinted glasses that she rarely ever used.  She smoked
for a few minutes, staring in awe at this formidable higher authority
being reflected from the mirror.  Smoking like this in front of a mirror
in the girl's room reminded her of her actions from the age of ten and
as she chuckled inwardly to herself she then lifted the plug in the sink
and lodged the cigarette down the drain untracably.  In the principal's
office she scanned an issue of Jack and Jill for 45 minutes.  Then she
became irascible and restless.

"Miss," said Gabriele with contumely toward the secretary who was
the only visible party responsible for making her wait, "will it be much
longer?  I do have things to do and I can pretty well tell at this point
that Jack and Jill is not very good reading--not for me, it isn't."

The secretary smiled painfully.  "I'm sure that you won't have to
wait much longer.  I'm sure Mr. Quest will be with you shortly."

She wondered about waiting like this.  Did authority figures
believe that making others wait aggrandized their influence?  For her,
it lessened it. If such a person was not readily available to cater to
her high ideals she assumed that he or she was a derelict in a back
office playing solitaire or a lascivious Neanderthal playing footsie
with one of the office staff.  "Mr. Quest?  Aren't I supposed to see
Mrs. Simmons?" asked Gabriele.

"No," said the secretary.

"Who is this Mr. Quest?"

"Mr. Quest is the vice principal," said the secretary.

"Of course," she told the secretary.  "Who else better to handle
vice"  Now she knew for sure that being invited here as this less than
honorary guest would involve disciplinary matters.  Quest's guest: there
would probably be the abrading of both the son and the caregiver.  She
wondered whether this was about her son at all.  Perhaps it was an
inquest probing into her personal life to which she alone would be
excoriated. It was a rather enticing thought to be under the spotlight
as the pillory of ignorant people.  It would give her the chance to
refute their ideas to make these authorities realize that they were the
ones strumpeting themselves as loud as trumpets.  It was she who did it
softly in her own little massage parlor in a trailer and only when in
need of money and for as brief a time as she could manage.  How many
wives and husbands (wives most saliently) became such all of their lives
to better their own fortunes: this was the idea that she wanted to haunt
the corridors of their minds.  If it would not besmirch her son and had
no bearing on him, she would air her dirty laundry.  She would submit a
slutty biographical profile that would leave them irrevocably in a state
of shock and awe but this would not be the case.  She knew that this
misbehavior (misbehavior being defined as action that was not sensitive
to the feelings of others) would be detrimental to her son and so she
did not want to go into the school to be scrutinized by these creatures.

"No," she thought again, "even if they have found out what I do for
a living they wouldn't have arranged a meeting to confront me directly
about it.  The matter would go through social services."  She foolishly
released some of her desultory thoughts to the secretary as she stared
at the Jack and Jill magazine.  "How strange," she said, "that someone
should wind up with such a grandiose name, but I guess it wasn't his
choice to be named Quest.  Good god, the images in Jack and Jill are so
violent.  What with little children waiting all morning for the
inevitable paddling and picking up magazines which have cartoons catered
to Charles Manson it is a wonder that there aren't more school
shootings.  Wouldn't you say so, Mrs....I'm sorry, I didn't get your

The vice-principal opened the door.  If it hadn't been for the
obscurity of her eyes behind her glasses it would have seemed that he
was penetrating her eyes with intimate familiarity.

"Mrs. Sangfroid?"

"Yes, something like that," she said.

"That's not right?"

"Miss, if you don't mind; and even though I am a disciple of Freud,
as much as I can be a disciple of anything, the pronounciation is "fraw"
and not "Freud."


"It's okay.  I've been called worse things."

"Would you care to come into my office?"

"Sure," said Gabriele with a smile.  She walked into Spiderman's
web with great insouciance and sat down.  "Hmm...I haven't been in one
of these rooms since I was a little girl and got paddlings."

"Were you a rather naughty child," he asked facetiously.

Gabriele smiled at his boldness.  She again thought it had a
familiar warmth to it.  "Not so bad.  Actually, I was diligent enough.
I just stayed to myself a bit much -- a very German characteristic but
kids hate that sort of thing--maybe not in Germany.  Who knows?  Hating
my stand-offishness they blamed me for what they did. Well," she
interjected with a laugh, "I was a bit of a rascal too.  I didn't squeal
on them but got even  -- putting bubble gum in girl's braids and things
like that.  I got the paddle on many occasions.  I never cried
though...but you don't want to hear about me way back then."

"No, it's okay.  You don't have to stop so quickly for me.
Learning about children's behavior is part of my job besides reinforcing
student codes and the curriculum--understanding them--even kids as big
as you with kids of her own-- and making policies suited to them...being
flexible.  Paddling too if needed."

"So, I guess it was you who asked me to come here."

"Yes, right."

"Concerning Nathaniel?"

"Yes, in a way.  As you know, Miss Sangfroid, children aren't
sheltered from violence in images or words any longer. The effects of
television violence are debated year after year and nobody does anything
about it.  The way children behave today at this school is the way they
might have behaved in Harlem or the Bronx ten years ago.  I see more and
more children who aren't sheltered from baseness.  It's more than just
catching a couple older children smoking in the bathroom once every few
months: drug addiction, brawls, foul mouths--fouler than anything I
would ever have imagined. These base influences make the children
something different than children and I suspect that not being allowed
to be innocent they won't see anything good in themselves or the world
when they are adults -- just the baseness. Wouldn't you think so? They
would become full of rage."

"I don't know," she said circumspectly.  "Let's hear specifics if
you are talking about Nathaniel."

"You are surely aware of him swearing the way he does or if he
doesn't swear in front of you--"

"He does sometimes."

"Okay," he reaffirmed mildly.  He found some satisfaction in the
honesty.  "Then maybe there are too many R-rated videos being played at
home or other media where he might be hearing words like--"

"Fuck?  From me, but he only uses words like this in choice

"Lady, there are no choice situations for that," scoffed the vice-

"I don't like the pejorative way you said the word, "lady."  She
stood up.  She couldn't imagine being called a more vulgar word."

"I think we should talk about this. Sorry, I didn't mean to be
disrespectful.  You are obviously highly educated and I want to hear
what you have to say. If we don't talk about it now sooner or later
he'll get into trouble even if we ignore it this time."

She sat down.  With unapologietic indifference she said, "Does it
happen very often?"

"Not that I'm aware of but it shouldn't happen once.  It was
directed toward one of our teachers."

"Nathaniel's home room teacher?"


"The one who puts him in the coats with his nose against the wall--
the one they call the Reclasaur.  Yes, I've heard about her.  As a
homeroom mother I've witnessed her.  Matter of fact, I was planning to
come to see the principal about this Mrs. Recla.  You just gave me the
incentive.  Do you approve of teachers doing that to students?"

"Not really; but from what I've heard he never pays attention in

"Who would, with violence being perpetrated in the classroom.
Would you pay attention to this discussion if I threw coffee in your
lap?  Of course, not. You'd be concerned about how you feel from coffee
being spilt on you. We learn what we have to to learn to survive in our
environment but if the environment is all bad than we withdraw from it.
Daydreaming is one of many defense mechanisms not listed in psychology
texts.  It's used by children when old things like Recla don't know how
to make them enjoy learning.  It's used to escape if confined in violent
environments.  If he is stripped of daydreaming and is being coerced
back into an unfriendly environment he'll use words--any words
violently.  Sure, with enough words being used violently as a teenager
one then moves them into the concrete realm of actions.  I really should
remove him from school altogether.  This is not the road I want him
traveling on."

"I'll ask Mrs. Recla to not use him as an example in front of the
class.  Discipline like that can be humiliating to a boy."

"Damned right it can."

"Do you always use profanity in your home in what you call choice

"I sometimes do.  I like to feel free to let words gush out but I'm
careful not to use them in violent ways."

"Well, he used the F word.  I think of that as violent.   Don't

"No, I don't," she said.  "Words aren't innately bad."  She knew.
The big bang was violent.  Movement was violent.  She knew too well that
any sexual act was a violent shot at conception wrapped in pleasurable
hallucinogenics.  Virtually all music, movies, and other forms of
popular culture were the celebration of sex, a celebration lasting much
longer and more indeliably than the act being celebrated; and so culture
was violent.  Commerce was definitely strife.  It was a competitive
attempt to get the goods in a world of limited resources.  A world with
people tripping over each other in their competetive movements flooded
one's senses. Noise was continually interrupting the contemplative
assessment of what one has taken in with the senses or invented in the
sacred domain of the mind.  Movement and noise were the real culprits;
and yet humans, sociable creatures of movement, would never indict them.
Such beloved villians that brought them titilation were always allowed
to go free.  "Again, you seem to think that violence or love for that
matter is in words instead of the love and hate moving them about.  That
is ludicrous especially with small children who experiment with language
and haven't learned the appropriateness of words for various situations.
When Nancy Sinatra sang, 'One of these days these boots are going to
walk all over you' the word boot changed--maybe not indeliably but at
least during the year of the popularity of the song.  All words are
sounds.  Negative and positive connotations to words are constantly
changing.  'Conversation' meant sexual intercourse in the seventeenth
century and 'intercourse' meant conversation.  Haven't you ever been on
the bleachers at a great baseball game and yelled out, "What a fucking
great hit."

The vice-principal laughed.  "Well, all right, maybe well-meaning
men with cans of beer in their hands might slip on occasion and say such
things but again that is adults.  I guess you don't see the problem."

"Listen, Mr. Quest.  What is your first name?"


"Do you have a middle name?"

"Yes, but why do you want to know that?"

"I don't know.  I do.  I like to know who I'm talking with."


"Well, Michael Frasier Quest, I apologize that my son said the F
word to his teacher.  All right?  This was disrespectful and I'll talk
with him gently, nose free and out of the coat rack, and we'll see if we
can calmly detach this word from his lexicon.  And I guess you will have
a talk with his homeroom teacher about proper ways to discipline a child
that can be reprimanding but reassuring.  Now, do I think that being
playful with the English language is a bad reflection on my son, no I
don't.  Creative people find creative and positive ways to use words.
Still, as I said, I'll remind him that the use of this one in particular
has its limitations in society...that it can be offensive in most
situations.  Children are intelligent creatures.  They seek approval.
If you explain the reality to them, they tend to emulate the

"Fine," he said.  "I think we can leave it there."

"What is that?" she asked.  She pointed to a file that had her name
on it.

"Oh, it isn't really anything.  Just some information I found--
merely notes--to help me know you a little bit before you came here."

"May I look?"

"Well, okay. I guess that would be fine."  She could see that his
thoughts sank back with his eyes.  She knew that he did not want her to
see these notes and so she wanted to see them with more yearning.

She took out a sheet of paper. She was relieved that there was just
one.  She read: Gabriele Isabella Sangfroid N 32 -- graduate of the
University of Kansas; a Master's degree in criminology at Emporia State;
a Master's degree in psychology at Rice University; worked for the state
prison system in Kansas; and although not currently on public assistance
such as food stamps and AFDC gained Federal Emergency Monetary Aid,
FEMA, to pay utility expenses in January of last year;  foodstamps once
one month in 1990; no criminal record."  She looked at him sternly.
"This information is that obtainable?" she asked.

"Between state authorities and schools, it is."

"I don't care," she said indifferently but with a sotto voce of
acerbity.  "Make your little notes; type them up; publish them.  People
are amused by so little."

"It's just a note."

She nodded.  "I know that but I'm not noteworthy." Even though she
proudly scorned this bit of voyerism, she again felt relieved that there
wasn't more.

She could imagine him having asked her how she supported herself
and her child financially.  This question would have forced her to
explain how she had considered all prostitution that every human did in
life and had chosen the physical version to be the most honorable.  It
would have brought her such sadistic pleasure to watch him squirm around
in iconoclastic ideas the way a convict had to adapt to prison or a
mouth to the wiggling substance of hideous tasting Jello.  Fortunately
for both of them, he did not ask.  She got up from her seat thinking how
ignorant he was of the earliest essays and arguments about education.
Even centuries ago intellectuals believed that education should not be
indoctrination or to learn a practical skill, but exposure to important
ideas that would help to guide an individual's perceptions.  "Well, Mr.
Quest, it's been a pleasure," she said as she shook his hand.  "Just
remember that if you soften Recla's approach toward Nathaniel I can't
exactly guarantee what he will say to her at all times but I can
guarantee that the vowels and syllables he uses will be benign.  They
will be creative and not hateful.  Please talk to this easily offended
teacher and remind her not to put him in with the coats anymore.  That
is if she wants to not deal with me in any other way than with a smile
on my face and cheese and crackers in my hands."

Chapter Twenty-Two

He had assumed the continuum of excitement in the exotic anomaly of
living together with a man.  In the first month of living with Seong
Seob he believed (as much as his ruminations allowed) that a union with
a man would be perennial splendor.  Back then he thought it would be
more emotionally and intellectually superior to what his parents felt
toward each other. There would be no transfer of a wife's affections to
the children; and not having shared property, lackadaisical rose, shrub,
and tree plantings and the conversations thereof would not bury him
alive in a landslide of the mundane.

One night in particular Sang Huin was bored with love making
toward his friend.  Love was yearning for what one lacked and now, with
all this time of having him, he could not sense that wish to possess
what he had months earlier obtained.  And yet like all other times they
nonetheless climaxed to sleep the way one might eat some leftover pie to
wash a pan.

Somewhere into 2:00 in the morning the ghost of his sister, Jun
Jin, eclipsed over his brain and he woke in the shadow and heat of its
passing.  He was thinking of her progressively less all the time.
Indeed, she was passing into a realm no different than nameless,
traceless ancestors diffusing out and away like the molecules that once
composed a mist.  But still she did not go easily.  If not clasping onto
him chokingly as one who, dead, was nonetheless drowning, she would slam
him against the internal walls of his brain for trying to relegate her
into oblivion.  She would definitely not go easily.

He felt a headache and imagined Gabriele's as well.  He tried to
shrug off both but was only able to dismiss what he imagined hers as
being.  He looked at the rising and falling of Seong Seob's chest within
the silvery tinted shadows of twilight that fell through the curtain of
their bedroom.  The breathing of this friend was harmonic beauty and, at
that moment, he halfway yearned for him.

Evading Gabriele motioning for him in the hallway as if he were
supposed to go into the bathroom to help her vomit, he went into the
living room and turned on the American military station, AFKN.  New
divisions of soldiers were being sent to Kuwaiti bases for another
confrontation with Iraq.  Pyongyang had recently dismissed nuclear
monitors.  The troops at the Itaewon base and at the DMZ were on a
heightened alert to North Korean actions.  They were the same old
unresolved conflicts.  "Feelin' good," said a soldier in military
uniform before a television camera.  "Feelin' the adrenaline.  Glad I'm
here to serve American interests and the people of South Korea,
practicing war games and the like.  I and my unit - all these great men
from every division - are ready to go into action any minute we're
requested to fight."  Peace, thought Sang Huin, was not the natural
state.  Being titillated by the infinite possibilities in sexual
liaisons with strangers and a propensity for violence were both the
natural state.

Sang Huin turned on his computer.  He could only jot down
Nathaniel's thoughts. "The car is hot.  He feels the burning sensation
of his legs against the upholstery.  He likes the heat.  It prompts him
to not delay by thinking, but just to move quickly.  There is something
pleasing in the car passing the world as wind.  It almost makes him feel
that he can pass through anything: through another car, or through the
side of an embankment.  He does not know where he is going."  Sang Huin
stopped.  He was being taken downstream with his memories.  They pulled
him into them because they were the substance of who he was.  As the
founder of philosophy, Thales, stated, everything was made of water.

Sang Huin, this Shawn or Sean depending on how he spelled his
nickname, had returned home from one of his last days of his senior year
in high school to find his sister, Jun Jin, crying on the bottom step of
the staircase.  Her eyes were black and swollen and they were as dark as
marble.  She didn't seem real.

"Who did this to you?" he demanded, although he believed that he
knew.  He approached her slowly and solemnly.  He pulled the strap of
his book bag beyond his clavicle and allowed it to slide down his arm.
He propped the bag against the side of the first step.  It wasted a
minute.  He wanted to avoid this situation and a protective, invisible
wall was around him.  He felt as if he were watching a movie of quasi-
real beings in an unusually personal situation that was just somewhat
believable.  He felt that both he and his sister were unreal just like
the unreal situation he was facing. He was reluctant to broach the
subject and he found his voice faltering when he repeated the question
for a second time.  The softness of an uncertain voice awakened her from
the withdrawal in a capsule of non-being.  She responded for she knew
uncertainty and to hear it in another being coaxed her to come out of
her own protective shell to acknowledge his suffering as well as her

"Help me," she said.

"How?" he asked.

"I don't know -- I don't -- just be with me nowEthat's all," she
whispered.  She gave to him what she had: a bit of a morose smile.  But,
water to cement, his expressions were hardening from it.  She could see
this and again crawled up into herself.  She was languid and bent
despite her stiffness but her feet were tilted to the floor and
suctioned into the frontal base of the step like an upside down insect.
One of her hands had such a firm tightness as if enmeshed in the railing
and the other one dangled without movement.

There was a child within him who was uncertain, who would placate
and comfort those in distress from the knowledge of distress himself;
and thus for a splendid moment he wavered non-judgmentally.  And yet it
was his father's tone he wanted to emulate.  Shawn was now the
representative of family with its senior members away at work.  He could
listen, comfort this stiff battered being who like him was a puppet
being pulled from all directions, fragmenting, searching for truth in
void, and at a loss with radically different thoughts, feelings, and
probable outcomes.  And yet there was the tone he started from, a tone
he could not diverge from now that his face was stern, the gift was
despised, and she, this older sister was absconding into herself once
again. He had to stay on one track if he wanted to be a man at all.  He
reinforced his earlier words, the words of manhood.

"Whoever did this to you -- I'll kill him.  You tell me now!"  He
blared his visceral rage.  Alien manhood was disgorging out of him like
a geyser as it did in all males when forced to forfeit being human for
being men.  The compounds being disgorged were obdurate, callous, and

"Please don't tell mama or daddy!" she mumbled weakly.

"They'll see!  Look at you!"

"I know."  She pierced him with being lost.  He was lost too but
resented having it being mirrored onto him.  It wasn't the model for
being a man that he could pass onto his sons should he have sons, and he
felt that he should have sons no matter what his sexual feelings were.

"What's happened to you?" he asked mildly.  "For one year you've
been a stranger.  I can guess.  I'm always left guessing."

"I've been ill -- so ill."

"Ill?"  He wanted to believe her. Strangely, he wanted to believe
in viruses that blackened eyes.  He wanted to believe in physical
sickness, which often had cures.  It wasn't a major divergence: sickness
meant being overtaken by a virus that was alien and so with love it
could be as unwanted as this.  One could be inundated with pleasure-
neurotransmitters like anyone whose consciousness succumbs to a knockout
gas.  This was his subconscious association; and yet consciously he
wanted to believe that she was literally ill and despised her for not
being so.

"Take my hand.  Let's go upstairs."

"I'll die if I go up there."

"No! Mom, Dad, and I will help you to become wellEif you're sick."
He emphasized "if you're sick" doubtfully.  Then he became aware of the
fact that he was playing a game the way he had always been led around by
childish games when he was a naive and gullible boy.  He hated her for
making him look foolish once again.  "Go up, June!"

"Sang Huin, if I go to my bedroom I'll slit my wrist.  I'll jump
from the window headfirst.  I don't know.  I'll end it somehow."

"What are you saying?"

"Feel it!"  She put his hand on her lap.  "It's alive."

He took back his hand in revulsion of it being placed there.  Then
his face grimaced.

"You're pregnant with a guy that gives you this!"  He lifted her
lowered face in his palm.  "What's the name of this guy?" he demanded.
He knew and it wasn't just a guy whom she had bred with but the
adrenaline of being with one who had power, the glitter of being with
one who had money and influence, the love of a body, and the friendship
with this man who was her boss. She had been seduced by the
demonstration that some male birds give to prospective mates when
dangling worms from their mouths.  It was the American dream. He had
always believed that womanhood and prostitution were the same thing.
"Release your hand from the railing."

"No, please, I can't go up!"

"Who's to say anything about going up.  We're going down, down to
him.  I'll give you to him since you are his second marriage.  He signed
it with that thing growing inside you.  Maybe you'll be his wife's
servant.  You're definitely his whore.  You've seen this home for the
last time."

Chapter Twenty-Three

Absent of Christ, this Easter morning began like many of those
secular Easters of earlier years: getting up to fix some scrambled  eggs
in her bosky bath robe only to find her attempts at providing a
substance of animal protein/vitamin B12 rejected for the chocolate
effigy of a rabbit in the refrigerator, feeding him more chocolate than
he typically got on a given day, and fixing dye in bowls so that he
could color his eggs. She fixed some breakfast for herself.  It was a
self-made Eucharist of  thickly burnt whole wheat toast, some beer, and
a grapefruit. When he finished dabbing eggs in various dyes and giving
to each a distinct design, she poured out some cereal for him.

He sat down with his usual fidgetiness at having to sit at all and
let his cornflakes get soggy as he picked at them with his spoon.
Easters were for  him like walking about mesmerized in a choclatey mist.
He was preoccupied with catching the ethereal on his tongue; and
Gabriele's bottle of beer looked more ethereal than the rabbit. His
incessant whining for some of her beer caused her to doctor a bit of his
orange juice in the hope that he would be satisfied if not happy in the
last vestige of pure childhood.

As they consumed the putrid and execrable half-baked scramble of
her macabre sense of a meal they heard church bells ringing
superfluously at a distance in downtown Ithaca.  Church bells were the
metallic clanging for the assembly of superstitious tribes.  Still,
because she always heard more of them each Easter, they seemed
melodious the way simple Christmas music fused with the happiness of
being with family members while decorating a tree.  And yet she knew
that once he disregarded eggs, chocolate rabbits, and store-bought sugar
cookies for more selfish pleasures, her Easters would entirely vanish. A
child grew out of pleasures the way he grew out of his britches; and
once this happened such clanging church bells would no longer have
anything musical within them.  They would only be noise.  She sighed,
thinking that all benevolent myths washed away like the sandcastle he
had made for the sun long ago.

It was just a little over a year ago, while pinning damp clothes
onto the clothes line, that he wanted to know the truth as to why his
friends were repudiating  Santa Claus.  She explained that they were
right in what they said; and that in a world such as this, what one saw
was pretty much what one got. It  was a testament in favor of empirical
evidence.  It was a statement that ideas were sometimes the copies
instead of physical reality being copies of ideas.  She told him,
"Reindeer flying from house to house in a population of 6 billion people
in 6 habitable continents just doesn't cut the mustard." Now she
regretted that she had said it.

When they finished eating, she sent him out to play in the streets
while she fornicated  with a couple newly arrived clients.  Following
such extroverted activities that required all her acting abilities and
social skills to be on target, she sank back into her hallowed, private
domain. She drew a few freelance sketches for a local card company,
cleaned the trailer hurriedly, and then began preparing lunch.  It would
be little bits of beef in gravy to be put on toast, which she so aptly
and succinctly labeled as "shit on a shingle;" but for now it was butter
in a skillet spewing anew in streams of orangish yellow sizzlings and
sputterings like early components of galaxies swirling out into open

"Over here, Miss Gabriele.  Howdy and top of the morning to you!"
She looked toward this strange Southern and Irish sound and saw her son
walking back and forth on stilts before the kitchen window.  She looked
at this freakishly elongated creature of ostentatious movements doing
its dance.  In ways she was envious of his sense of celebration in the
moments, hours, and days of being but she couldn't help asking herself
if this gyrating form had actually come from her although indeed it had.

"Howdy, over there," she said with the amicable indifference of

"When's that shit on a shingle stuff gonna be done?"

"Don't know."  She poured in her milk and flour.  "What do you want
with it?"


"Lasagna--always lasagna if not goulash.  Well, we tried that last
night."  She thought of that mildly humiliating moment when his face had
wrinkled and cringed.  The face had crinkled like an old newspaper in
the muscles of a palm.  She, his heroine of all these years, had been
regarded with disapproval.  Sure, the pasta had been overcooked and the
starch had dripped from it but she couldn't see that this was any more
repugnant than a juicy hamburger.  His repugnance had surprised her and
his exaggerated expressions had not seemed a commensurate reaction.

Yesterday the behavior struck her with its impudence.  Even more,
she was struck that just by living together as they did, she could feel
a twinge of pain so easily and so preposterously.  She was worried then
that she was becoming as ridiculous a human being as everyone else. It
was just a twinge of pain lasting a moment but it was too much.  The
whole foray into obeying a cookbook was an unsuccessful attempt at
imitating school cuisine which she dumped in the trash in a choleric
gesture lasting no longer than his facial grimace. She took the plate
from him, removed her own as well, and scraped the contents away in five
seconds. It had been a little thing but it was hard for her to forget it
now that she was cooking another meal for him.

"Rick's gonna come."

"Who's that?" she asked as she stirred her concoction while picking
at the meat the way one might kick away dead bodies littering the
street." She turned back to the window but he was no longer in that
frame.  Already the stilts were forsaken action and he was going off
somewhere else on a bicycle.  She could only see this diminishing figure
from behind. She was irritated that so much of the time he went off
without permission and yet she did not feel that she could chastise him
for what she had done when she was his age.  Even now she was doing it:
she was dragging him into a shiftless domain of a trailer-whore hoping
that something extraordinarily advante garde would happen to him here.
Maybe she  had a moral obligation to take care of one whom she had
brought into the world but his coming from her womb did not mean a claim
to him.  At least, this was what she told herself.  She could guide him
the best that she was able but if he wanted to jump fifty feet from a
top branch of a tree or ride on a bicycle head first into a bus it was
his choice.  If he wanted to run off without permission, she told
herself, why should she feel any pang from it; and yet, like a
ridiculous human being, she did.

Phallicly shaking out some Worchestershire sauce into a big black
tempest, she wondered how the sanctity of monogamy existed with the
tenet to be fruitful and multiply.  If promiscuity were the natural
order, monogamy had to be the unnatural one: and yet, paradoxically,
monogamy had become a revered moral code of conduct.  It was no wonder,
she thought to herself, that people were frustrated and confused.  She
told herself that there had to be a reason for monogamy to be such a
sacrosanct striving although she was having trouble figuring out what
that reason could be.  The tenet existed but within it most men were
given the wink for indiscretions while some women were stoned to death
for them.  They were stoned, she theorized, for making other men
question whether or not the children within their own homes contained
someone else's peculiar genetic codes.  They were stoned for implanting
anxieties in the piece of mind that man had.   They were stoned because
of this competitive need engrained in the human psyche to survive as
long as one could and to pass one's genetic codes to the next
generation.  The tendentious rationalist further theorized that if one
were to live in a remote rural town he or she would not make
compatability an issue.  Knowing that there was no chance of finding
anyone better than the person one was with, such a couple would grow
apart, stay together, and plant trees. She couldn't prove it; and if she
could it would be just one more empty fact.  And yet now it was an empty
theory.  Sometimes it struck her how this dance with ideas was like
awakening to the fact that one was all alone dancing in an empty room of
a lunatic asylum.

The quantum theory of her life -- the forces that drove her away
from humanity (perhaps some inherent German characteristics, although
she was but half German) and the circumstances that drove her back to
humanity, the inherent need to be a social creature and the need for
self-preservation within her own cloistered domain-- were the making of
a dilemma; and being in a dilemma (a soap opera of one's making) was
like finding oneself in a beautiful garden of undiscovered geysers. A
dilemma was the air of Thales, the water of Anaximenes, and the fire of

These forces of withdrawing and shunning but needing people were
like the peculiar components of atoms.  They bounced off each other and
made her.  At times the atoms pushed away from society: and then they
oscillated back, compacting her to the world of selfish people with
their insatiable movements...cats with their insatiable
movements...insatiable cries.

The cat had once again dragged its prey to the metal steps that went
up to the door of the trailer.  She could hear that specific songish
whine that it repeated for the acknowledgement of having made its
capture.  She looked out the window and saw her son and another boy
standing there listening to these cries. The cat was wanting their
praise for its work. From the cat she realized what work was: it was
feeling self-worth from believing that one had gained something special
in one's movements and demanding that other's acknowledge these captures
for to not do so would relegate them back to the insignificance of just

All creatures needed some type of work and yet she had none and
she wanted none. Outside of the obligation of motherhood, all that she
engaged in were art and prostitution. Neither one of them were movement
in the strictest sense and so as such they were not work: the former was
not action but contemplation and the latter one involved lying on a bed.
In both art and prostitution she did not need or want praise from others
for she had nothing to capture in movement since she was not moving.
Even in motherhood, she was not trying to obtain some being to fill a
void in her life.  There was no void. She had been accepted as an FBI
profiler prior to finding herself pregnant.  She could have gone to that
or to nothingness; and with the obligations of motherhood she had slowly
chartered a path into nothingness.  She did not need anyone telling her
that she was beautiful or that her art work was worthwhile. Matter of
fact,  she did not need them at all.  Others could come and go from her
life through the revolving door in her castle if anyone had the power to
budge it after crossing her moat.  They could  come and go and she would
inhale and exhale them like respiration so long as they made no claim on
her as she made no claim on them.  Breaking definitions of work, how to
make a living, and sociability, she told herself that she was a macro-
human living with mere earthlings she could not fully identify with.
Her mind was a bit scrambled in what she was thinking.  Maybe she was
saying that she was pure contemplation--someting like that. She wasn't a
hundred percent sure of any of her ideas. They changed with the moment
even though ideas should be permanent and immutable when the physical
world was neither. Being profound was like driving one's car through
potholes for the hell of it and hoping to not get a flat.  Maybe
contemplation was movement.

If the cat wanted to follow its instincts, contribute to her
pathetic meals, and gain a bit of praise, she did not mind. She or
Nathaniel could praise it; but this sport of playing with one's eventual
meal, however, was loathsome. It was hard to revere Mother Earth and
Father Sky, or nature as a whole, when it was essentially barbaric.  She
hated Mouse when it allowed its half dead prey to escape so that it
could recapture it again and slap it around with the stiff rackets of
its paws. She opened the window.

"Who are you?," she asked.

"I'm Rick," said the other boy.

"Do you have a last name?"

"Quest," said Rick.

"Quest as in Mr. Quest at the school?"

"One and the same," said Nathaniel.

"What's with the cat?" she asked

"It got a black bird."

"Not the owl?"  She was anxious that it not be the owl that had
nested itself in a wooden flower pot that hung beneath her window.

"No, your owl is okay I guess."

"Good."  She turned to Rick. "Are you staying for lunch?" asked

"We will if your cooking doesn't make anybody sick," said

"I'm sorry.  What did you say?"

For a few seconds he hesitated fearfully but he pushed himself and
let his temerity ooze out. "I don't want anybody to get sick eating it!"
Her eyes became hard and haughty.  She smiled a hateful smile for that
son of hers "had balls."  Gabriele shut the window on the opinions and
personality formulating within this son of hers.  With the window fully
closed, she could still hear that whining of the cat wanting the payment
of praise for having made its capture.  "God," she thought.  "Why does
it have to play with its prey?  If society is barbaric, the nature of an
individual is worse."  She wondered where she could move under the sun
without projecting a shadow.  She wondered if by finding a mission in
life for the benefit of herself and others in the hope of making the
world a less obscene place she would become more indecent than what she
was.  She wondered if she could even learn anything from a world where
the nature of things wasn't exactly evil but was definitely cold, crude,
self-centered, and merciless.  She supposed that this question was the
predominant experiment of her life, and it incorporated Nathaniel into
it.  The redundancy of the cat's disharmonious songish cries grated her
gray matter.  She filled up a bucket with water and threw it onto the
steps to cause Mouse to abscond to happier fields.

As if both were very young boys, she wanted to make playdough for
her son and this other little entity that he had dragged back with him.
She yearned to foster in a small way those who could still mingle within
the solitary wanderings of the mind.  From this malleable substance of
flour children could be encouraged to continue as solitary units of the
present moment where just the peculiar aspect of being alive would be
enough to totally enthrall them.  And yet she realized that she would be
fostering that which was tepid in all of them for boys grew older and
more sociable by the day and she, a maimed and hurting soul, was sour to
the world.  This sour quality ricocheted its dour force on her inner
harmony forcing cynical ruminations and recondite perspectives. The
railing, in her own head, about "the prostitution of work" was merely an
excuse for not being more contemplative and productive.  The reality was
that she could not reside comfortably in the inner world even if she had
all the time in the world.  All that she could do would be to conjure
oil paints and malleable pottery clay if not playdough in the hope of
retaining an inner depth in a child capable of perceiving the entity in
a unique way.  Maybe the wish to make him once again interested in
playdough was from the yearning to retain the earliest aspects of him.
Through him she could have a childhood vicariously.  After all, with
Mother and Father riding  off into the sunset in a tank, the beheading,
and the disparaging comments by the Peggyites in the bootcamp of
Peggy's Kansas home, she still needed innocence vicariously. She
rejected the idea of making playdough. "I don't want to confuse the
playdough with the meal," she told herself but really she didn't want to
feel that malaise of one foolish enough to have a 7 and 8 year old do
activities that they had outgrown. Her grandmother still thought that
Peggy's thirty year old children collected coins and she still sent
commemorative coins from every new state that she visited. After so many
years Gabriele still felt blessed to be out of that fray because nothing
was worse than trying to feel close to a bunch of hostile strangers
whose only closeness was proximity and blood.

Glancing from the window at these boys competing with each other in
a game of soccer, she was reminded even more of the way things were.
Her son was a social animal now and all meaning would be in others.  She
tossed a salad.  Unfortunately, as she was reaching for the burning
toast she set the bowl on the bar with a bit too much thrust of the
wrist, tossing it everywhere.  She cleaned up her mess, raised the
window, and tried to avoid being controlled by the roaring negative
irascibility that strummed discordantly within her.  Restraining
herself, she said mildly, "Okay fellows, better put the game aside and
eat this stuff or I'll feed it to the Mouse."  Nathaniel picked up his
ball and raced his friend to the door. The meal might have made him
procrastinate were it not for hungers and thoughts of a chocolatey

"Do you have mice inside there?" asked Rick as the two boys entered
the kitchen.

"No, that's just her name for that old cat."

Gabriele interjected, "I take it that the 'her' might be in
reference to me, your mother.  And as for Mouse, what other name has it
ever had?  I wouldn't call it old either if it is still able to hunt."
She disliked her son's disparaging tone towards a member of her family
that had been with her longer than he had.  She thought that the words
were rather treacherous and scowled; and yet she was cognizant that
gender neutral pronouns akin to a chair and having thrown water at her
furry child weren't outward symbols of love although they might be
equivalent to how she was treated in Peggy's home as one of their
family. "Are you hungry, Rick?" she asked.

"Yes, please."

"Good."  She scooped up some lettuce, apple sauce, and cottage
cheese and put them on a plate for him next to the shit on a shingle.
"Here, Rick.  This'll put some hair on your chest. "Tell me, with Easter
and all, don't you and your family go to church?"

"It's just me and my dad.  He likes Saturday Mass better."

"I see.  No mom?"


"Oh."  Her interjection was lucid but sympathetic.  She thought it
the right combination for matters like this.  She admired his strong and
unambiguous declaration.  He knew that death was death and for one so
young not to fudge when saying it gave her newly found respect for this
widower, Mr. Quest, as well as his son.  Was there really a realm where
ideas were the true form?  She was certain that Plato was right in
thinking that there was.  We were all imitations of ideas.  But she was
equally certain that no one returned to the realm of ideas once they
were dead.  Death was death.  It sometimes occurred to her that if
humans weren't honest about the tenants for the parameters of birth and
death (sex and closure) they would lie about everything else within
those parameters.  If she could only get through the factory of life
without becoming a defective misanthrope she knew this to be the highest
measurement of success.

She listened to their kid talk for half an hour: some other kid who
couldn't catch baseballs and whom they attributed as the culprit in
losing a game; those who were successes and failures in a broad jump;
teachers who reprimanded them; wretched gossip about poor Little Orphan
Annie and her continual penchant for launching her cannon balls at male
genitalia; action packed television movies they had seen; popular
cartoons on lunch boxes; and sardonic complaints from the deprived
Adagio for only getting to watch TV three days per week.  She did find
the food jolting around their mouths as they spoke rather amusing; but
on whole it was dreary  conversation and it began to give her a

"Put your plates in the sink when the two of you finish. I need to

She excused herself and retreated into the bedroom while they ran
to the refrigerator to put their ravenous fangs into the carcass of the
chocolate bunny.

In her bedroom she listened for the door of scurrying boys to open
and close.  Then she began to smoke her cannabis like Shakespeare and
let words in thoughts rise from the ashes of the mundane.  As they rose
in a cani-beer cloud with the levity of laughing gas, she stayed in the
bedroom and began to write. She did not feel sick enough to go to the
bathroom this time. She thought that she should really lock the door of
the trailer but she knew that the Nathaniel would stay outside busy unto
himself or with his friend. Less and less would her company be needed.
She wrote:  "Dear journal, I've been thinking that the personal life
should be banned. This  socializing and lovey-doving just slows down
society's progress.  Everywhere, clogging sidewalks, there are these
Cornell University girls holding hands with their guys. Makes me sick.
If I go to a waterfall or a  park to paint or pick up some milk at the
7-11 I have to wave my hand and shoo them away like pesky flies. And you
know that each of them is thinking about what he's thinking about her.
So apparent! They are orbiting around their guys at all moments of the
hours. They are everywhere subservient to chemicals of love in their
heads that make them subservient to his whims; and I want to be the
demolition of those ties. I see my vocation as roller blading down
sidewalks through those linked hands while I get to my destination.  I
see myself on sidewalks leading to the grocery store.  I'm on roller
blades and I'm breaking a few arms and blading a few lovey-dovey hearts.
Sometimes I dream of shouting through a megaphone, 'About relationships
and needing people I caution everyone to be circumspect. Can another be
water or oxygen?  Can another one be your sustenance?  Stop this
delusional MTV thinking! You are letting one simple neurotransmitter
banging against a pleasure receptor control you.  Females, don't be
foolish enough to be women!  What are you doing wasting all the minutes
of your life trying to get someone to be with you? What on Earth makes
you want to block off your own thoughts this way? A man won't stay with
you forever.  They never do and sooner or later you must confront your
own inane foolish selves that have been underdeveloped and unchartered
all this time. Find a deeper awareness than the personal life. Find a
vocation that will allow you to tap into the entity.  Tap, tap to not be
the whimsical dictates of a selfish man.  Tap and confront one's real
aloneness. Be intrepid by aloneness for from it one finds oneself.  It
is by being gregarious that you lose yourself . Befriend your aloneness.
To do otherwise makes men think that your highest duty is to be ridden
in like riding on a horse. Tap  Tap. Buck the man from vaginal
penetration.  Watch him run away like a horse slapped on its side. Plug
into your special talent that links you to the entity and you will never
be lost again.  You  will be part of the new invincible species.'
Still, what can I do?  I'm just a mere me.  I mailed some photographs of
Adagio to Peggy and her gang. Sort of appearance only.  Decided it was
best to keep up their interest in him. Promised that  someday they would
not only see him but keep him for a while.  Don't know why -- True, I
don't like them despite that they are his his godparents and all--but
sometimes the idea of a hiatus from this Mommy game is a bit tempting. I
could dump him on them.  Antarctica -- Antarctica.  It's still in my
dreams --"

"What about me?  Willya' take me with you when you go off to the
seventh continent?"  The voice was that of Smokey-The-Bear in the "Don't
start forest fires" advertisements.

"Up here, youn' lady."

She looked on the shelf.  "Well, fuck.  You're not Smokey at all."

"No, youn' lady, I'm not.  He's just a distant cousin."  Gabriele
looked at the foot long stuffed polar bear sitting on a man's
handkerchief on a shelf above the dresser.  She had bought him one time
when she went to Buffalo, New York.  "Poor Gabey, nobody loves ya'
'cause ya' don't love 'em.  Going to restaurants all alone isn't no fun.
Parks alone, waterfalls and painting with your paint brush, even
fornicating alone. Even when you are with people you are separate.  Poor
Gabey."  Suddenly the polar bear began to change into the higher

"Gabriele, it is me" said the higher authority. " Look at yourself,
held together by the stitching of hate-the plastic-eyed polar bear with
the stiff arms that the factory of the human race mutantly created -- it
will be you who shall feel the walls of artificial fur ripped from its
threads, and your stuffing falling out.  For a little beer on top of
four joints makes a person see the unsealed human fragments that had
been smoothed over in time. Come on Gabriele, the gal who still chews
tobacco and spits it into an empty beer can...the gal with the deep
dark-ocean eyes...the gal bereft of what the normal means, grip that
other beer bottle now.  Together with the joints, this is the only
medicine devised to rebreak the strangely concocted pieces that have
been glued into the broken you.  Drink and smoke!  Become fragmented
again with the hope that you will heal and be normal. A 17 year old girl
goes to eat a meal in her boyfriend's home and a wife to her in-laws.
How is it that such simple pleasures continually elude you? How is it
that you have made such cynical and erroneous views of the world?"  No
sooner had her higher authority spoken then Gabriele heard a skid of a
fast moving car suddenly stop and a child scream.  The polar bear and
the handkerchief with the initials embroidered on it tumbled from the
shelf.  Gabriele quickly stabbed the marijuana to its ashtray of death
and flew out the door.

"Who is this mother fucker?" she mumbled to herself.  Then she knew.
Here was MF, the vice principal of her son, her former client, shouted
at hysterically by the mother of the dead little girl.  Gabriele held
the woman who was deranged in bereavement and sunk into gravel and dust
of the trailer park.  She was her bulwark.

"So, he will be her lover -- this MF?" scoffed Saeng Seob in their
bed upon hearing his last chapter.

Sang Huin regretted having begrudgingly read him this chapter.  He
only read parts of the manuscript when asked to do so.  Seong Seob could
only understand the superficial aspects of the story at best and he only
asked to hear those bits of it read out when Sang Huin seemed to
preoccupied with writing it.  Sang Huin supposed it gave them something
in common.  "Maybe.  I don't know, really," he said evasively.  He
removed his computer to a table that was adjacent to the bed and picked
up a magazine.  His eyes began to peruse the photographs of male models
in Gentleman's Quarterly who if known and involved in his life would
pull him out of his numb abyss of insipid days into the vibrancy of
desire in nightly embraces.

"And become pregnant?"

"I don't think so.  I don't know at this point."  He yawned. "I
wouldn't know what to do with that.  I need some believable drama in
it."  And yet he felt that there was no drama within his own life.
Giving private lessons to children he didn't particularly care for, his
days were missionless clutter that exhausted what little extroverted
characteristics were within him; and coming home to Seong Seob with a
lack of sexual  variety in that domain was flattening him in the malaise
of inordinate boredom.  He was certain that there was no drama in his
life; and yet paradoxically he knew that drama was inherent even in
rocks that weathered away in time.  Drama was change and it was in all
things.  If drama were in the rocks, it too was there in a simple life.
His was laden in resentment over the idea of returning home to this
blind lover who couldn't see that the two of them living together was
inhibiting the progress of his manuscript.  "Any ideas," he asked.

"She could have a baby and then throw him in a well."

"Why?  What well?  I don't want to write unbelievable melodrama."

"It's not unbelievable.  It happened?"


"To me.  Postpartum depression.  I'm told that a few weeks after my
brother was born my mother became depressed.  She wouldn't eat very
much.  She wouldn't leave her room except to go to the temple.  One day
she wanted to go to the temple and she couldn't find my brother's shoes.
When the servants couldn't find them either, she dismissed the servants.
She told them to not come back.   When they were gone she made a bath
for my brother and drowned him.  My family says that maybe I fought back
and it was too much trouble for her in the bathtub. Anyhow, she decided
to drive me to an old contaminated well on my grandmother's estate,
pried the boards loose that covered what was left of it, and dumped me
in.  There wasn't much water in it so I didn't drown, but I lost my
eyesight. "  Sang Huin felt an empathy as deep as the gods while he
listened to the wind howling through the crack of the window.  It was a
barely audible murmuring of ineffable pain.  It was palaver but it
called to him somehow, pushing him from his malaise to the malaise of it

Chapter Twenty-Four

She could guess that the quick entrance into the trailer park, if
it were such, was a reaction to her, the nefarious whore, whom he had
ridden in sync to a female's need for pleasure many years earlier.
Maybe as an afterthought to the decision of allowing his son to go off
with Nathaniel, Rick's father recognized the address his son had gone
to.  If that were the case she supposed that she was in some way
culpable for him driving quickly, if it were indeed done quickly, to
remove his son.  The inescapable fact zipped her up into its body bag:
the removal  had lead to the neighbor girl's ill fate and early demise.

She wasn't sure who was to blame.  Perhaps it was fate itself.  She
parsed this concept of fate.  She asked herself what it was and it
seemed to her that in most situations it was the selfishness of myriad
individuals who, together at a convergence, unintentionally brought
about another person's harm. She rued over the unfairness of those who
thrived for a time and those who seemed bound to perish from their
inception.  She could become engrossed in her own quasi-pleasant little
world and not think about the bigger picture. By comparison to many
others  suffering from starvation, disease, war, and menial labor her
life was that of a contumacious child who refused to leave the amusement
park for fear of no longer having such a dizzy perspective of it all.
She could become a bit religious (anything from a witch to a Christian)
and further the vertigo. Within the lotusland of America, so removed
from intense pain and hunger, she could hide to have a brighter
perspective where some god or another was still keeping the whole
creation, if not each and every individual, safely in his pocket.  She
did not, however, want self-deception.  As much as she was able to do
so, she wanted to know reality.  Justice was equity but equity was not
in the natural order and so the natural order was unjust.  What justice
there was  existed as the creation of man; and so, in ways, society was
more righteous than the natural order.

A day before the funeral she could sense a malaise so palpable it
seemed to flatten her under its foot like a bug.  While her Adagio was
at school (if he were indeed hers, for she doubted the tenet of people
belonging to each other as it was action and clutter of small earthly
creatures who needed to fill their time and the vaccum of their minds no
differently than her son and this Rick when they had played with a
soccer ball, plastic and air, to gain a connection that bypassed one's
lonely domain), she went into the bathroom.  She stared at the mountain
of his and her clothing beside the washer, which she had crowded into
the stall of her shower.  The molecules of their stink seemed to bang
against each other in the musical vibrations of Eric Satie's musical
composition, Gymnopedies; and with the dead heap of morose and musical
laundry, her lethargy, and the horror of being a domesticated woman as
all womanly slaves since the beginning of time, she couldn't bring
herself to do the laundry.

She told herself that she was indeed a silly woman.  Nine years
ago she had entertained herself in this mental challenge of being
desired by one whose orientation was not so inclined to women, spun
herself in a specious illusion of intimacy when, in youth, sex was such
a novel and believable medium of intimacy, and given birth in the belief
that aborting an embryo was barbaric.  Now she was struck by how this
connection that she brought into the world would be an ongoing
frittering away of her days. She cachinnated at her absurdity, which
caused Mouse to jump on top of the washer and stare at this mad woman
inquisitively.  "Hi there, Mouse.  Haven't you ever seen a woman laugh
while doing the laundry before?  You really must get a life." She
chuckled at the cat.

She told herself that there were too many people in her life when
really there was just one.  She told herself that contrary to her
precept that people should be breathed in and out she was cluttering up
her life with them although really a neatly isolated and Antarctic
existence would have given her nothing to contemplate.  Still, she again
entertained the idea of dumping her son at Peggy's for he had become too
indespensable to her life and this was a deep vulnerability. Still the
quandary persisted: there was no way that she could allow him to be
damaged by the disparaging animadversion of a family no different than a
"boot camp" or military training camp.  The internecine war games in
this so called family of which she had extricated herself brought most
damage onto outsiders like herself and she did not want to perpetuate it
to the next generation.

Gabriele  heard a thump in her mailbox.  She received a letter
telling her that she was terminated from  the local greeting card
company. She rummaged though her sketches and found one of her impish
ones, less pertaining to social etiquette, missing from the rest. She
must have mailed it in by mistake.  She guessed that this was similar to
what she might have done to be ignored by Hallmark.  With Hallmark she
wasn't quite sure what she had done but this local greeting cards
publishing house was clearly piqued.  Did the subconscious, like an
empress dowager, make its maneuvers on conscious reality behind the
scenes? She had played such games for so long. It was no great wonder
they had dismissed her. Only an idiot would have been surprised by this
playing with the fates. She also realized that she could not prostitute
herself more in her other occupation to rectify the lack of incoming
finances. Sanity only allotted so much prostitution per week. "Oh,
well," she thought. "Maybe I could sell my paintings."

The thought of herself as an artist the way some might proclaim the
title as a full summation of themselves was never something that
Gabriele did. She could admit, "I paint" to herself. This was an obvious
fact, but she never went beyond that. This added relevance of a bleak
economic situation, however, made her say, "I could possibly be an

Evading the menace of time consuming laundry, she sat in front of
her canvas but found herself thinking about the neighbor woman and her
deceased child.  That woman would have pillaged through hell for the
opportunity to wash clothes for her daughter.  Gabriele felt ashamed of
herself for groaning about domestic chores and she felt deep empathy for
her neighbor. She went to the grocery store and  then brought over a
packaged basket of fruit for the grieving mother.  She knocked and the
woman opened the door slightly.

"What?" she murmered numbly.

"Hello.  I hope you don't mind.  I was worried that you might not
be eating."

"They let him go, you know."


She took the basket.  "More food.  People always give food,
energy."  She laughed bitterly.  "Yes, Quest, and I don't know why."

Gabriele released a sympathetic interjection of "Oh, my!"

"It doesn't matter.  Nothing matters now.  If I'm alone for a
minute I keep hearing her everywhere I go but there-there just isn't
anything.  It doesn't seem real.  I don't seem real.  I make movements
but it doesn't seem like me.  I'm talking to you now but it seems like
there is somebody else talking who isn't me.  You aren't you either.
I'm just watching you like from a  distant seat at a movie theatre or
something is watching that isn't me. "

"That's  natural. It will be that way for some time. Feel it your
way as long as it takes."

"How would you know?" the woman asked bitterly.

"I don't.  I just imagine it is," Gabriele said softly.   She did
not want what she knew to intrude.  She just wanted to listen.

"The police say nobody saw him when he entered the trailer park.
Nobody knows if he was speeding.  According to the police, Sally ran in
front of him to get a ball some boys threw to her."  Gabriele couldn't
imagine her boy wanting to play with a girl.  Then  a cold feeling shot
through her body: what if her son had thrown the ball at the moment that
the car was coming into the trailer park in the hope that the girl would
run after it and get killed.  "What if this is a reaction to Little
Orphan Annie?" she thought. The idea was too chimerical and grotesque to
take seriously.  She dismissed it but the cold still streaked through
her body.

"Have you had breakfast?  I know it is the same food idea.  It is
an empty gesture in an empty world.  Would you like for me to stay with
you for a while and help you get something to eat - I'd stay for as long
as you'd like."

"My mother's here.  I've got to go now.  Thank you."

"Sure, but take this" said Gabriele.  She wrote down her telephone
number on  a sheet of paper that she pulled out of a pocket.  "Call me
anytime, any hour, if you need a listener."

"All right," said the woman.  She shut the door.

Gabriele went back to bed. The sun dominated through the covering of
the drapes. She took her quilt and draped it from the curtain rod. She
could not see the point in anything other than sleep. The experience of
the senselessness of the girl's death had just fused into other elements
of  the void and stunted her.  If her son were here and continued to be
absolutely unaffected by what had occured she would have been tempted to
allow him to bring in orange juice and burnt poptarts to show sympathy
for herself who was a woman in a philosophic void. She might have done
this despite knowing that he would never be empathic to such philosophic
quandaries.  He was a product of motion and he hadn't experienced enough
of life to understand something like this.  Like now, each time when the
void descended upon her she told herself that she could not fight it off
anymore than one could avoid inclement weather.  She would just have to
ride through the fog that permeated it all.  She let the void devour her
energy, and then she fell into the sleep that the Ancient Egyptians
thought of as the death of the soul. When the quilt fell from the
curtain rod she woke up to a tepid rejuvenation.

She got up to fix herself something to eat. The cat was on the table
eating the left-over pancakes that she had fixed for her son before he
went off to school.  Instead of shaking the cat in the air, making it
appear to be in the midst of convulsions, she just sat down and watched
it eat.  Then she tossed the dirty plates into the sink--a function that
was not habitual to her, but one that she didn't mind taking on this day
when washing them would add to her mental void.

She didn't have him go into school for any part of the day even
though the funeral wouldn't take place until 5:00.  Instead, long before
sunrise she loaded up kid and canvases into her old car.  Then they
began a long ride that would take them briefly into Syracuse, into
Albany, and then back to Ithaca in a circuitious meandering of
interstates and main streets.  She had that pivotal expectation that if
she were able to find the addresses of art galleries the curators there
would guide her toward various amateur art fairs so that she could sell
her work.  There was, however, that less realistic hope that they would
have customers who might like the "sui generis" of a Gabriele Sangfroid
enough to ferret out the libertine creator from obscurity with this
needed substance of money.  For their purchases such members of the
apparatchik would find a link back to originality and freedom that would
assuage their banal and stressful existences.

However, in his untoward behavior characterized by argumentative
insubordination about getting in either the car or the school bus,
restless climbing over the front seat within the first 15 minutes into
the ride, being told to go to a theme park every ten minutes, and claims
of car sickness, she could not feel that anything auspicious would
happen to her.

"I don't know why you dragged me here with you," he complained
early into the morning when they were approaching the city limits of

"Drag, my dear, would be to tie you to the back of the car and pull
you on that sweet behind of yours."  She gave a wry but playful smile.
"Would you like that?"

"Sure.  It'd be like water skiing."

She remembered the time that she had taken him to a lake along the
Addrionick Mountains to bring to him the entity, the best that she
could,  since jumping into leaves had been construed as child's play.
From a restricted area used for paddle boats and used by swimmers they
had rowed along and watched sailboats and water skiers within a bloody
orange sunset.  She added,"Yes, but with no water or skis--only hard
pavement worse than being throttled by a vice principal."

"Mr. Quest?" he asked.

She did not say anything.  She no longer spoke of him.  The police
had not charged him with manslaughter and as far as she knew, the boys
had lost their ball, the girl had gone after it, and MF had just turned
into the trailer park at a normal speed.  She had tried several times to
engage her son about his feelings and experience being present at the
girl's death and yet then and now he did not seem particularly bothered
by it.  He never said anything depicting blame and confusion over Mr.
Quest's role in the tragic incident.

"Sure, I'd like to be dragged that way" he reiterated.

"Hmm," she said as she pulled out a bag of chocolate from her
bookbag.  In most occasions she was so conspicuously purseless."Here,
have some chocolate and peanut butter things and eat them in the back
seat-and be careful that you don't drop part of one and sit on it.  I
don't want that stuff squashed into the vinyl , or worse,  to have to
scrub it out of your clothes."

"You need a new car like Chuck's mom.  She rides around in a shinny
big red van and not like this stinky old thing."

"That ostentatious woman again.  Well, I'm delighted for her.  I
guess if her van is not stinky she must have a son who is neat and
doesn't smash chocolate and peanut butter things into the vinyl."

"What is stinkiness?"

"What is stinkiness?  I guess it's the decomposition of matter,
molecules dancing around in the air or beginning to come apart like the
chocolate in one's mouth.  Chocolate, however, isn't stinky.  Maybe the
decomposition of things falling apart and going back to elements like
hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon can either stink or be rather fragrant"

"Why isn't the chocolate stinky?"

"Good question.  I hope that you become a scientist  who
specializes in that very thing."

"I hate the smell of those deCOMosing paintings in the trunk.  I
can smell them from here."

"To each his own," she retorted.

"Why do they smell so bad."

"So that you won't eat them."

"But the smell is so bad I might think they're trash and throw them
in the trash."

"No, you'd know better than that because you'd find yourself in the
trash.We're searching for buyers of these paintings so that way we won't
offend that dainty little princess nose of yours."

"I don't have a princess nose.  I have a manly prince nose."

She smiled.  She liked the bantering especially at times like this
when it wasn't a distraction from a higher contemplation but a
distraction from a monotonous one.  The minutes went by and soon they
were in Syracuse.  She presented some of her less preferred paintings
and three of them were taken on consignment.  In Albany two of her best
paintings were offered a showing this way; but as she was insisting on
cash, they aquiesced to a paltry pittance of $300.00, which she, in her
ignorance, was delighted to gain.  She vowed to attempt Rochester and
New York City at a later date. After eating some vegeburgers and
hamburgers from a fast food restaurant, they returned to Ithaca for the

During the funeral she saw that sadness had flattened over the
bagginess of  MF's sleepless face.   She felt sorry for him. She
realized that he was a sympathetic character who could not be made into
the abhorred culprit.  It occured to her that the four of them were a
microcosm of the human family-each unwittingly doing its small part in
the harm of others and each insecurely cuddling in the blanket of
themselves where they might dodge feelings of compunction.  They would
not be alone:  there too Little Orphan Annie, the company  of executives
in charge of manufacturing dodge balls, and the males who had harmed the
poor girl, might also abscond.

Chapter Twenty-five

A couple years passed of being no one's whore.  She just painted
and studied toward a Master's degree in art history, passively
delegating the obstructive clutter of motherhood and all other clutter
to her assistant.  Her work was resplendent to few; and yet within the
limited coterie of art enthusiasts and modern art collectors searching
for potential investments, she was a success.  They made her so for
having one of her paintings on a wall was a portal out of the mundane.

She also believed that she had succeeded.  To her, success was
measured inwardly but bolstered by things obtained with the purchasing
power of money such as her recently built home within an Albany suburb,
a new van, and choosing to be bedizen in some expensive jewelry that she
wore repeatedly. More importantly, she was bolstered by her freedom.
She was now one of those rare birds under the sun, free to explore her
ethereal ideas and whims without any major economic considerations.  She
was one of those rare birds left alone to grow fully within herself.

Apart from beautifying herself unnaturally in the concrete of
makeup and displaying feigned smiles, which were done for potential art
buyers and Gabriele aficionados, no demands were put on her that she
didn't choose to place on herself.  The house, the coruscating bits of
rock that sometimes dangled from ears and neck, and her new van would
have meant little to her if it weren't for how strangely unfettered this
success was.  It was exempt from all forms of prostitution and she was
C.E.O. of only herself.  This C.E.O. had no behemoth bureaucratic agency
to feed, tame, and prod to a gallop at all hours.  She did not have to
give her every conscious thought to it and every unconscious thought
trying to find some aspect of herself outside of the dinosaur she rode
upon and whose domineering presence enervated her when she tried to
control it.  Instead, her success was full license to run around in the
thickets of herself.  She was in that other garden of the barefoot
child; and she had arrived there on a magic carpet to which few adults
could shrink and reposition their limbs to sit comfortably enough to
guide the flimsy rug through the windy caprice of ideas.

No longer clinging to poverty as the savior of oneself from
prostitution, she was able to relinquish domestic womanly servitude by
this appointee, Hispanic Betty, as her housekeeper, cook, and office
worker.  From this faithful, illegal worker she was able to relinquish
soiled underwear, stubborn grass stained pants, meals she was never able
to master, buying multi-colored tissue paper for decorating a
Valentine's day box, exhorting him to do his homework, and a host of
trivial matters on a given day.  Because of Hispanic Betty, who was ripe
for servitude no less than a virgin for plucking, she could dispense
with such trivial clutter. She could spend her time on the meditation of
the entity, which always gave her tokens of appreciation in the form of
unique perspectives concerning her world.  In such a figurative and
literal garden where she painted behind her house, she was aided by the
verdant colors of the yard half the year and the snow and holly during
the other half, the mellifluous smells of clean cold air of winter or of
neighbors burning grass or leaves, the winsome blowing of the limbs of
her trees, and the dulcet sounds of birds making their homes within

With such an idyllic life she should have had headaches less
frequently and yet they came with more regularity and intensity,
smacking her forehead from within and dredging what was once pure and
cloistered waters.  With a temperature, black spots filming over her
vision, and the need to vomit on and off for a period of hours, each
time she experienced a migraine she would be thrust into human
vulnerabilities and find herself extremely perplexed as to why she
should be so diminished.

The previous day, February 12th, every small movement was exacting
and she was forced to go to the drugstore instead of a pot dealer's home
since this inward insurrection was so great.  She suggested that
Hispanic Betty drive her to the doctor. When the woman kept trying to
insert the key in the same wrong position within the ignition and at
last primed a bit of gas into the icy cold vehicle with the accelerator
instead of pumping on the brake peddle, she still had no confidence in
her.  Lacking this confidence, they switched to a taxi.  Throughout that
day she was vertiginous and lost, not knowing how to center herself or
what to center herself around.  The day had been like walking around in
an eye-stinging blizzard.

Now it was February 13th and Gabriele was outside drawing the
creatures of love depicted by Aristophanes in Plato's Symposium:  the
hubris of whole beings that Zeus was ready to slice in half and those
already cut and diminished desperately searching for their "better
halves."  She cynically snubbed love as hungers for sex and that
personal domain of wanting to love and be loved, which were more hungers
and more neediness.  Then two things dawned on her. They were opposing
ideas that refused to be irrelevant.  They refused to be vanquished from
the kingdom.  They refused to stand outside begging like a Buddhist
mendicant at 6:00 a.m. in Laos.  They were the making of a more self-
actualized Gabriele.  She realized that there was great beauty in two
people caring about each other for it was nature's plan to use selfish
hungers to create that vulnerable spot within the human psyche that
needed consistency and permanence among other things; and that she too
yearned for a studly apparition who would touch her and by his touch
make her real.  She felt so empty within these past two years of
celibacy.  There were days in which she felt that her pristine
intellectualism was an absolutely drab prison cell.  If someone were to
touch her on her shoulder--just a simple human touch--she would not be
wallowing in the sludge of her thoughts.   She would not be masticating
them like a worm.

Taking a break on the porch, she began reading one of her textbooks
but soon she fell asleep because of the decongestant she had taken
earlier for a cold. For a minute she dreamed that the makeup on her face
was an oddly pleasant sensation like baby powder on an infant's buttocks
and then the powder began to constrict her face into feigned smiles.
She ran into the kitchen and grabbed a scouring pad to abrade away the
stiffness before it all began to make her face crack.  When she woke up
she saw the mail truck drive away.  Then the door opened and a woman
stepped out with a stack of envelopes in her hands.

"Hispanic Betty," Gabriele asked, "The mail has already come?"

"Aqui esta, senora."

"Anything important?"

"No se nada acerca de esta asunta. I don't know nothing about it.
I just get it.  Don't look at it."  Gabriele didn't care what the woman
purportedly hadn't done.  It seemed to her that anyone who did a
family's laundry had to develop some curiosity about them and she
thought it would be rather unnatural to not scan the addresses on
envelopes.  It irritated her that the woman was so circumspect if not
outright leery; and yet she was an illegal worker who needed a job.

"That's professional of you," she said indifferently.

"That's the type of woman I am."

"Swell," said Gabriele indifferently as she perused each envelope.
She mumbled aloud. "Ah, not unexpected.  A Valentine's card from Rita
Lily and one for Adagio from Peggy.  Not unexpected there either."  She

"Esta desmasiado frio estar fuera.  Necesito volver a mi trabajo.
Tengo cosas hacer."

"De acuerdo," said Gabriele and she watched the busy bee fly away
from her cold Antarctic garden.  Given her new awareness that claiming
others in a mutable world was an innate human instinct whereas breathing
people in and out of one's life was just a defensive anchor keeping one
from being carried away by an instinctive reality to cling to someone,
she felt regret that she hadn't taken an interest in her son's
construction of a Valentine's day box.  She told herself that that this
year might be his last year of actually believing that the world was
full of beautiful cards and sentiment exchanged with one's peers.  She
went inside to write letters of contrived gratitude to Rita/Lily and
Peggy the way her son and his classmates made Valentine's Day cards for
a world of virtual strangers.  It wasn't totally contrived.  She needed
others.  She loved others.

                          Book Three:  Alone

   "No good can come from chilling tears. This is the fate the gods
    have spun for poor mortal men, that we should live in misery, but they
    themselves have no sorrows. There are two jars standing on Zeus' floor
    which hold the gifts he gives us: one holds evils, the other
    blessings. When Zeus who delights in thunder mixes his gifts to a man,
    he meets now with evil, and now with good.  But when Zeus gives from
    the jar of misery only, he brings a man to degradation, and vile
    starvation drives him over the holy earth" --Iliad

Chapter Twenty-six

A colonial sofa with an arched wooden back; the dark drapes
absorbing the light that would have saturated the living room; Ravel's
Bolero playing lightly from her CD; and a fly above vher
face...cacooning there, she could only focus on little monads of reality
at a time:  now it was pulling back the hair out of the face and toward
her pillowed head; comparing her thoughts to the over-shuffling of Tarot
cards flying off in all directions, the choping of meat at a butcher's
shop, or the static of television stations intruding into each other;
and the recent and recurrent memory of MF (visibly older but obviously
easily recognizable when she saw him in the audience while making her
address from the podium). For ten or eleven hours now there was pain and
the slow scattering of her thoughts was as a child on a beach with a
fist full of sand who discovers his souvenir has been ebbing out of the
cracks between his fingers.

She could not shoo away the pesty fly that was as pesty as Mormon
flies (those sententious dragon fly missionaries who had knocked on her
door earlier that week--Nauvoo, Illinois,  Mormon flies so succulent and
"so fuckable," whom she had reluctantly rejected from her door).  The
migraine was intense and she could only lay there in her tomb.  Her
sterile thoughts were filth.  Her harmonic bliss in aloneness was, in
illness, devestating and lonely as one suffering in solitary
confinement. Within her sickness earlier suppositions about the world
discomfited her.  They mutated into something less than worms and hid
themselves in her gray matter.

Powerless--she who years earlier had been an avid racketball
player, criminology and psychology scholar, and a forger of a new
destiny, an individual who had made a success by embellishing her inner
self in marketable products on canvas--here she was lying on a sofa
unable to even successfully shoo away a fly.  The weak thing she had
become, she tried to suck it into her mouth.  She tried to use the human
mouth as a vaccum cleaner as this fly incessantly tried to land on the
contours of her face.  She put a hand over her face and turned on her
side.  "Come away with me!" she imagined MF as saying.  "Come away with
me, the two of us out of this pase place!" And again, as throughout her
illness, the thought of him was as a light beyond the tunnel.  She did
not know the reason for it.  She had only spoken to him once beyond the
service she had initially given to the widower in her previous
profession.  They hadn't spoken at the funeral.  Even though she could
have met him again through parent teacher conferences she had delegated
these sessions to Hispanic Betty.

The previous night had been an extroverted evening:  a reception at
a temporary art exhibition where many of her works were on display and
then a speech she gave to art students, faculty, and others interested
in her art at a university in Albany.  She told them that successful art
could be a natural propensity or from just learning to paint when not
having a natural propensity for it at all (usually something in between)
+ dispensing with any conventions that stifled an unbiased and
uninhibited desire to play in ideas and see the wonder of everything
anew.  She supported her premise with quotations from Emerson, Thoreau,
and myriad artists.  It was a typical speech presented and specifically
catered to those who yearned to hear motifs stressing independence even
if it bordered on the absurd.  To her the self should be married and
revered but seeking uniqueness in a forest like a post Taoist or post
Transcendentalist was to seek it from an external force.  Still such was
her audience and she would prostitute herself to them a little bit.

As she was listening to Ravel's "Pavane pour une Infante Defunte"
she heard the doorbell.  She knew that she could not get up without the
most trying effort so, staring at the fire alarm some seconds, she
finally raised herself briefly.  She pushed the "test" button and
continued to press it for a long moment of a sonorous outcry. Was her
door unlocked?   She hoped it was and wasn't.  She heard a door open and
footsteps.  She returned to the sofa.  She wondered if it might  be a
bill collector, a life insurance salesman, or a well endowed and
handsome rapist.  A whole host of other possibilities entered her head.
She told herself that whoever it was, thief or saint, if this person
weren't scared away by the fire alarm, she would demand that he or she
go buy her some asprin.  Surely it wasn't Lily.  She hadn't spoken to
her for so long and she would never be able to figure out how to get to
this city let alone her home.  Was that it? Had she used Rita/Lily to
fulfill her limited social requirements and then dumped her,
figuratively, on the side of the freeway linking to Albany?  Had she
forgotten about her when there were other people in her life?  Were all
humans this way?  Was there no such thing as caring?  She heard further
steps pursue the top story...or was she imagining them?  She wanted to
push the fire alarm again--it didn't make sense but in her pained mind
the sound of the fire alarm would make robbers leave and Zulu witch
doctors with instantaneous and magical remedies appear.  She did not,
however, have the energy and that fly kept buzzing
around her ears.  She kept swatting it but missing it each time. The
footsteps were those of a man's.  She heard boot soles clunking
hurriedly up the stairs under her miniature chandalier.  Were they
Michael's footsteps?  No, surely not and yet she hoped they were all the
same.  There before her, in leather boots,was Hispanic Betty.

"Fuego!  Levantese, senora.  Hay un fuego en su casa, dama."

"Oh, it is you, Hispanic Betty.  There isn't a fire, you silly
deranged fool."

"No, hay un fuego.I heard the fire bell."

"Oh, all right.  Just trying to get your attention." She had to
muster up all her strength to make her ideas cohesive and sensible. She
smiled with the full manipulation of her white fangs.  "Please go after
some asprin.  I swear I can't take much more of this without some
relief. El dolor esta desmasiado. Por favor compreme unos asprina a la
7-11 convenience tienda."  She closed her eyes.  Words were arduous

"Esta usted enferma otra vez?"

"Yeah, sick again.  I thought you were on vacation.  No desea ir el

"Purse.  La otra noche perdi mi monedero."

"Yeah, I saw your purse, tu bolsa upstairs--arriba la escalera; but
run to the convenience store or the grocery store for the asprin--
whatever is quickest.   Rapidamente!"

"No, dama. Hoy no tengo trabajar hasta cinco."

"For Pete's sake usted es terrible perezosa.  You are floja-lazy
floja, floja-lazy."

"I'm not none floja, please Miss. I'm your good illegal
trabajadora. Don't throw me in the streets."

Gabriele again thought of having figuratively tossed the carcass of
Rita/Lily into the thickets of weeds on the embankment."Please, Hispanic
Betty, as one of our family go out to get it and then you can have the
day off hasta cinco por la tarde."

"You won't fire me now for looking floja?"

"Not if you filfill my fucking request and get the goddamn asprin."

After she took the asprin she got some relief.  She had Hispanic
Betty get Nathaniel ready for summer school and then she sent him off in
a taxi herself.  When both were gone she ate a little something.  When
she recovered more of her strength her mind was still very groggy and
painting was far removed from the agenda of the day.  Since there was no
painting there was no agenda and so she began to clean the house.
Inaction, she thought, might lead to a void.  A void in the proper state
of mind could lead a strong person to philosophic discoveries and a
strengthening of one's fortitude; but in weakness a void required energy
to escape, and so it was best to keep busy.  She saw that a string of
cobwebs was dangling from one of the elements of the chandalier.  She
looked at it, and not knowing how to get up there she decided that this
was not a good place to start on a day when one happened to be sick; and
so she went into Nathaniel's room.

In the room she dusted everything from the little volkswagon that
ran on D batteries to the breeches of the stuffed animal, Pluto.  When
she opened one of his desk drawers she discovered a child's book called
"Heroes of the Bible."  It was published by the Latter Day Saints.  She
wondered whether these dragon flies were so insecure that they even
needed children to validate the stories they projected into their minds.
Religious minds not only projected such stories onto all the walls of
their brains but cast themselves as more Disney characters into this
metaphysical film within the most salient roles.  God that destroyed
humanity in the flood so that something "good" might generate from it;
Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his son to any arbitrary and barbaric
whim that this godly tyrant entertained--the Bible was camauflaged
brutality as was this book that catalogued Joseph to Joseph Smith.
Plato would call it more misrepresentation of the gods and yet she
couldn't call it libel, slander, or misrepresentation if there was no
god and nothing to misrepresent. She took a break and had some bread and
grape juice like one more cannibal eating Jesus' 2000 year old body and
drinking the virulent tonic of his 2000 year old blood. She resented the
Mormon flies for having given her son that book and yet she knew that
sometimes people could be positively influenced by something at a
certain stage that years later would be beneath them.

She told herself that since Hispanic Betty would be back at 5:00
she could spend the day recuperating in a park.  She would not be
missed.  When he needed his bicycle fixed it was Hispanic Betty whom he
turned to.  Just the other evening she saw him drag a tent out of the
garage.  She asked if she could help him.  "Hispanic'll do it," he said.

"Well, I'm rather good at such things--repelling, camping, and you
name it as long as its outside the house."

"S'not an issue.  She's good at everything. You're not needed," he
said and the words
resonated deep into the far reaches of herself where she remembered
Peggy saying, "They don't want you so they pawned you here so quit
blubbering for them.  I opened our door to you; fought with my husband
when I didn't want you here either--and look what you did to me.  Look
again!  Pen marks on this upholstery.You ruined the sofa--a two hundred
year old piece of furniture because you don't have sense enough to take
pens out of your pants."  She remembered all those years where she was
this pariah absconding into her room.  She remembered this second war
where they laughed and ridiculed her every move and how Peggy never
acknowledged it was happening.  She remembered how Peggy's husband had
one day come to her and tried to undress her and that she bit him which
invited his fullest hatred of her. From that day onward there wasn't a
comfortable moment.  Even at Christmas this "uncle" excoriated her for
sitting with the rest.  She had to sit in a corner of the room and hide
in books and distant places.  She wanted to tell Peggy about how he had
drooled over her with his wet slobbering eyes and then tried to undress
her, the biting, and how the biting had led to more contempt.  But she
was wise.  She knew that there was no use broaching this subject any
more than shedding any feelings over the decapitation of the Turk.  She
was all alone in the world and the choices were to kill herself or to
become immune to others and not let them affect her and she chose the
latter path.

At the park she swam for a short time in the swimming pool.
Gleaming studfish of the Spandex species were everywhere and their
gleaming bodies magically invoked within her sexual feelings--each in
his own way. Then she sat along a lake watching row boats stir the
waters that were turned to silver in the sunlight and joggers running on
a road that was to her right.  Her womanly instincts wondered what life
would be like to be involved with one of such studly apparitions.  She
disregarded such lowly inclinations by walking around the park.  She
followed loud pop music and then with a hundred others she did some
aerobics according to the movements of the teacher on his wooden
platform and then, exhausted, she lay in the shade of the trees.  She
became aware of feathery leaves, angular leaves, paddle shaped leaves
and the fronds of palms and ferns.  She briefly fell asleep and when she
awoke those leaves had become a silhouette.  She felt blessed to be in
such beautiful variety and the ostensible plan that went into it, or at
any rate, "one hell of a variety from adaptation"; and this healed and
restored her.  As she watched runners also fade into silhouettes she
yearned for the mystery of their movement.  She wanted to run to foreign
countries and escape this God sanctioned superpower that school children
were brainwashed into believing as better than all other countires. She
wanted to peak inside these foreign lands and say "Hi" to its denizens.

She went into a bathroom in a McDonald's restaurant and changed
into more formal clothes.  Then she went shopping at Sax.  The
outlandish prices to the clothing of super rich snobs appealed to her,
as it had before, but when she got back to her car she was reminded that
they were just foder for covering nakedness.

By chance she saw that a travel agency was still open and she
stepped into it.  Photographs of Peru, Mexico, Egypt, Italy, and China
graced her.  Where would she go?  Should she take her son with her as
part of his education?  No, she told herself. This would be a
contemplative retreat.

A week later she went from New York to San Fransisco; San Fransisco
to Tokyo; and then Tokyo to Bangkok.  She took in temples and Buddhas
via the river boat bus, the Chao Phraya Express.  She saw opulent
skyscrapers and she meandered through labyrinths of tackey tin and
wooden cobbled shacks along the river.  She saw two young boys with
Butch haircuts in dark blue shorts and light blue shirts embracing each
other as they walked closer than lovers, emaciated and fur-lost dogs
beaten with sticks and then shoved  into large racket and burlap bag
instruments like butterfly nets.  She watched the dog catchers dump the
hounds into wooden crates, uniformed teenagers in sidewalk restaurants
enjoying the process, coconut tonic vendors putting straws in the cut
cocunut shells and fruit on a stick salesmen pushing their glass ice and
fruit carts.  She spent most of her time downtown.  On the sidewalk she
saw men's underwear sprawled on a table top that was balanced by one of
those plastic stools  used as chairs at sidewalk restaurants or those
for tired sidewalk salesmen.  "I wish I had the man in the undies" she
said aloud to her amusement.  Then she passed containers of raw fish on
ice next to the sharkfin restaurant.  A young man who gained a
commission from bringing in the masses into the restaurant said, "Fish!
good!"  He was so palpable and so much in her reach.  She turned toward
him and stopped.  She put her hand on his chest and slid it down to his
waist.  "Fish good, you say?" she asked and then giggled like an
embarrassed school girl for she was embarrassed by her own temerity.
"Fish very good!" said the google and glaze eyed fish salesmen. He put
his fingers into the waste line of his pants and jiggled them in a
couple seductive bounces. Outside of the fomenting of her own
sensuality, she felt the imagined spirit of Buddha permeating everything
like a warm wind.

After three days here she went from Bangkok to Rome.  Her world was
that other world, that etheral world consisting of the highest apogee of
man, that which was least in his making and yet here it was manifest in
tangible objects from one museum to another.  This was her idea of
heaven: to be fully in that small realm of one's mind where true beauty
existed and within a city where others, some living  and most dead, had
also engaged in that area of the brain and produced objects so splendid.
At a Burger King a block away from such a museum she bought a couple
vegie-burgers, an apple pie turnover, and a chocolate shake.  When they
were deposited on her tray she turned and walked to an empty table.
Near it she stopped with mouth agape.  There at an adjacent table were
Rick and his father, MF.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

In Burger King words ensnared the artistic ascetic for she too
succumbed to polite requests and smiles.  For whatever chimerical ideas
she had about isolation in Antarctica she knew that too little society,
as too much of it, would be deleterious.  She too would have been an
incontrovertible loose canon had she not maintained some sociable
traits; and so she sat down at their table despite not wanting to do so.
"Rick, if you weren't seated with your father I wouldn't have recognized
you.  Heavens!"  Heaven--it was a word that nobody believed in and
everybody used.  She put her elbow on the table, chin in a palm.  Then
she focused her intensity sociably, basking him with it gently in the
rays of her orbs.  She knew that her gesture was probably an affected
one, oblivious to the fact as father and son might be, but she did not
think its contrived essence as being all that important.  Hers was like
one of Peggy's few favorable gestures, only she had improved upon it.
Instead of using this gesture for situations where there was an affinity
of values she used it, on occasion, to further rapport.  By pretending
to care more than one actually did one couldn't help but emulate and
believe in the skit, making the dubiously real in fact real.  With a
deep albeit contrived sense of caring, she said, "I haven't seen you for
so long.  Are you still friends with Nathaniel?"

"So-so," said the boy ruefully.

"Well, don't worry.  Everybody meets new people and are attracted to
those new influences for a time which help them grow.  I'm sure you and
Adagio will be friends again.  I bet he likes you very much.  I know I
do."  Then to MF she said, "So you guys are taking in Rome?"

"Yes and other bits here and there. We were in Venice a couple days
ago.  Nice--well worth seeing as I'm sure Florence would be.  The
problem is that a man can spend the whole trip traveling from one city
to the next.   So...I've decided that I and this big guy will just stay
here in Rome for the rest of the time. Are you here all by yourself?"

"Yes, here all alone. Tell me about yourself.  There's got to be a
lady friend somewhere here in Rome."

"No."  He smiled bashfully.  " Just here with my son."

She guessed that the widower was being faithful to the memory of his
wife by not pursuing any other relationship outside of an occasional
sexual liaison with a whore like herself.  She liked the assumption and
it made her feel closer to him.  To some degree she wanted to ferret out
the truth on this matter but the assumption gave her such a warm feeling
and she too liked her endorphins and dopamine. "Nathaniel is at home
staying with Hispanic Betty."

"Hispanic who?"  He chuckled.

"Hispanic Betty.  Well, that's my name for her.  My assistant -- a
lovely person in her own way.  She's illiterate in both languages but
again in her own unique way a lovely enough character.  I give nicknames
to everything.  Nathaniel is Adagio and my cat, Friskie, is Mouse.
Nathaniel will be fine with Hispanic Betty.  Did you guys just come from
the museum?"

"No, we've been sitting here waiting for you for days.  Finally we
can go into the museum now that we have an expert to show us around.
It's been rough sitting."

She laughed.  "Wow, Michael!   You knew I'd be on this very speck of
the planet within this time and space.  Handsome and charming as well as
psychic.  I'm impressed."  She laughed again as she glanced at his
playful smile.  It occurred to her how much of a human's life was
consumed in frivolous exchanges of happy feelings.  There was really no
substance in it at all.  She turned back to Rick who was as yet free
from being overwhelmed in the sensual impulses that created the
libidinous ego, lascivious sociability, and the lustful lies of human
will that willed the stimulation of the pleasure receptors of the brain
at all times.  "You and your father will have your eyeballs shooting out
of your sockets when you begin the art tour in this beautiful city, I

The boy laughed with a feral, garrulous confidence.  "Now it's my
eyes out.  Before it was gettin' hair on my chest if I ate your stuff."

She smiled.  "You remember.  It was called 'Shit on a Shingle.'  To
MF she explained, "That's a nickname for one of my domestic dishes.
It's also known as beef and gravy on toast." To Rick she added, "And
given time it will grow hair on your chest.  I promise."  She began
eating her veggie burger.

"Mrs. Sangfroid," said Rick, "what are you eating?  It's orange."

She looked at the edge of her burger. "More like raw sienna, golden
ochre, cadmium yellow, and goldenrod dark...hard to explain the color.
Saffron the closer you dig into the corn.  This vegetarian hamburger
probably isn't all that nutritious fried with hamburgers but here we are
as guinea pigs within modern existence."

"That's a heavy one from a sandwich. Tell me what you mean," said

"Well, I mean that we don't grow our own food so we are reliant on
what others present to us as good and we follow the masses into places
like this out of convenience and laziness.  We are like cognizant teddy
bears on an assembly line to have our apertures plugged up with plastic
eyes but there is nothing we can do about it.  Anyhow, two cheers for
Burger King.  Hip hip hurray!  Hip hip hurray!"  She laughed, more
amused and interested in herself than anyone else.

"You don't eat meat, Gabriele?"

"Not much," she said.

"Okay," MF said disapprovingly.

"Whether or not animals have any value outside of becoming a product
to serve to us doesn't matter so much to me.  I think what I think but
you can't prove it one way or the other.  I just feel that having the
attitude that everything exists to serve human pleasures and appetites
stunts any enlightenment one might hope to get on this planet.  It's not
the animal rights perspective but my own."

"Good for you.  I admire that," he lied.  Their conversation paused
and she saw that MF had removed both onions and pickles from his
hamburger.  She watched both males sink their fangs into the aesthetic
round bits of carcass.  She told herself that there was indeed something
atavistic about it.

"Dad hates vegetables--won't ever eat them."

"Is that a fact!" said Gabriele.

"That isn't true; and don't talk with your mouth full!" rebutted MF

"We never have tomatoes in the refrigerator."

"We have Ketchup.  It is tomatoes plus."

Gabriele laughed.  She as marginally enthralled with the charm of
their bantering.  Then, like the sound of crickets, the human noise
became monotonous.  Still, it was better than being deaf, and it
bedizened her ears like large cheap earrings containing bogus stones.

"I saw you when you gave your lecture in Albany," said MF to
Gabriele as if wanting to change the topic.

"I know.  I saw you there.  I wanted to catch you but there were
droves of people and one reporter swarming all over the place."

"I understood that.  It's okay."

"Did you drive up just for that?"

"No, my parents live in Albany but I wanted to see your work and
listen to you."

"Wow, thank you" she said humbly.

When they finished eating and were walking to the museum he said,
"So, you were in Thailand before coming here.  What were your
impressions of it?"

"Hmm...I guess that before I went there I half-way wondered if it
would be comprised of people without wills the way the Buddha rejected
self saying it was an illusion--but no; it was full of mall hoppers and
people pacing here and there anxiously with their cellular telephones,
eyes glazed over, totally self-absorbed like in the states although
perhaps less of them...a lot of poor seeming so quaint from my vantage
point but probably not from theirs.  What's your impression of Italy so

"Well, it is hard to say with so many tourists.  If they get rid of
the tourists one can have an impression."

She laughed.  She liked that answer.  It seemed to her the correct
answer; and since he seemed to her a conduit of reality, she felt that
he was enmeshed with her somehow. She did not want to believe in fate
but here they were together in such an unexpected place. The strangeness
made her a bit superstitious. "How long will you be here?"

"Maybe a week.  And you?"

"Not long.  I can't afford it and Nathaniel won't pick up the phone
or reply to email so that troubles me."

"Anything wrong?"

"No, I'm sure it is a bit of resentment about me going on this

"Won't Hispanic Betty answer the telephone?"

"Are you kidding?  No, she refuses.  She dusts around a telephone
like it's a snake and moves to a different room when it rings."  He

She led them into color, perspective, and forms of Masters who had
died long ago.  They led her to a planetarium, the coliseum, and then a
small amusement park on the outskirts of Rome.  After Ferris wheel and a
roller coaster rides she and they were addicted to motion and so they
went on the water log ride as well.  As they came down a miniature
waterfall they were drenched.  From these rides she knew that she was
thrust into further action.  Without consciously choosing it, she was
now on a womanly ride of feeling great pleasure in the company of a man
and something resembling family.  It occurred to her that this was the
ride that all broken adults with battered children inside them went on.
From love and establishing a family of one's own one could break from
the wretched past.  One could remove the glass fragments from the
exploding glass house of family, bandage wounded childhood, and could at
last distance oneself from memories of the guardians of hell.  The ride
would be that of a new family and beginning, a type of forgetfulness.

All this time had gone by and still Sang Huin woke up from
nightmares with a sweat glazing his forehead.  He could not help but
remember driving his battered sister to her lover's mansion, dragging
her up to the door, watching her faint on the stoop as he pushed the
doorbell, and then watching from his car as the wife discovered his

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Sang  Huin had a very strange dream one night.  It was a night in
which he had experienced a cancellation of a lesson and instead of
returning home he had gone toward the Myong Dong area of Seoul to a gay
Turkish bath, which he hoped would exorcise him of the void.

Like any explosive, the chemicals for the detonation were inside the
container (himself); and all it required was a small sensation as its
spark.  It always struck him as peculiar and intriguing how a sexual
feeling that was so internal should be linked so indelibly with the
external like a woman's ability to produce milk, which required birth
and a baby to suckle if it were to not dry up.

There, once again in the Turkish bath (as if this time would be a
less specious form of intimacy than all others), he had sought
excitement -- fireworks of sensation within a dark room for orgies.
There, like a balloon, he had blown his body in titillations and desire
only to be deflated to a moment or two of tameness and godhood and then
an equilibrium -- this concoction of a little god and a lot of animal
called a human being.

And when he returned home to Seong Seob, there was a contrived
inflation and deflation of the phallus in the ersatz of coerced will.
Then he lay there like a squeezed orange, albeit a discontent one.  He
was unable to sleep for countless minutes that seemed as hours. And when
he did go to sleep he dreamed strange and erratic things.   At worst
these images burst and burned against the walls of his brain like jets
against the World Trade Center.  At best they expanded and contracted
nerves in his brain like the coldness of an ice cream headache.
Accelerated by too many graphic CNN reports and satiated in anxieties
and guilt within his own life, he dreamed that Gabriele was living in an
isolated area in Pakistan with her cat, Mouse.  One evening there was
knocking on her door and when she answered it a stoic Rita/Lily with
obdurate, mechanical, and glazed eyes injected a drug into her arm.
When Gabriele woke up she was staring into the face of Osama Bin Laden.
"Where am I?" she asked as she lifted her head and wiped the pallid dirt
from hair and face.  A translator relayed her voice to Osama Bin Laden.
She recognized him too.  He was Khalid Shaik Mohammed.  Osama said
something and the translation was "Al Qaiida Hills in what people wrong
to call Afghanistan  behind Tora Bora.  You relatives must pay big
ransom or we cut off you head."

"Relatives?" said Gabriele. " If you mean Peggy, you inane turbaned
bearded little freaks, she wouldn't give you a nickel or a dime to save
my head.  She wants every cent to go to Wal-Mart to buy toys for her
beloved grandbabies so they will smile at her and reach for her before
they do their own mommies. She likes babies: the thought of them fills
her with dopamines and endorphins; and the inveterate shopper that she
is, buying for them couldn't make her much higher.  Such
neurotransmitters run amuck in her. Mama bird must do what she is
created for. Anyhow, nobody's getting rich off of my head and I want --
no demand -- I demand to know how I got here and I further demand that l
be transported back immediately."

"Remember Rita/Lily, devout Moslem sister: she inject you with
tranquilizers, give you swallow sleepy pills, and then put you in trunk
of you car.  There she drive across border," said Khalid Sheik

"Thanks for the info, Shake!" said Gabriele.  "She always was a
crazy; and crazies are always religious--no offense."   Gabriele heard
Osama's palaver in Arabic."

"Osama wants to know if you play volleyball with us." said Khalid
Sheik Mohammed.  Khalid Sheik Mohamed smiled widely with his fangs.

"Volleyball?" asked Gabriele.  "It's a bit strange, but what the
fuck.  Will it expedite me getting out of here?"

"No doubt!  Osama want to be a good host while you here. He want to
have fun with you."

"All right, if I must."

"Splendid," said Khalid Sheik Mohammed. "You must."

Osama slapped a desert mosquito that kept circling around his big
nose. He flattened it on his face. Then his large tongue came out with
the twitch of his face and the mosquito fell onto its waterbed coffin.
No sooner had the Al Quaida mastermind eaten it than the Taleban cleric,
Mullah Mohammed Omar, snuck up like Death in a brown hood and robe.  The
one eyed reptile then cut off Gabriele's head with his hatchet. Osama
Bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed then began their game of volleyball.
Mullah Mohammed Omar stood at the side of an invisible net counting
score as the two other men volleyed the head over the line which he had
dug into the dirt with a stick.  There was talk of getting access to
North Korean nuclear fuel rods, a strange epidemic that they had
manufactured and proliferated in East Asia, and assassination plans for
George Bush.  The face of Gabriele's head kept staring at them while she
volleyed about.  Gabriele thought, "Talking politics and playing ball:
these inane turbaned bearded little freaks can walk and chew gum at the
same time."

Sang Huin suddenly woke up and went into the bathroom where he
splashed some water on his face.  His face looked heavier when he stared
at it in the mirror.  He realized that as much as he had hoped to hold
onto youth, it was already shed and blowing around like fragile leaves
within another time and space.  He chastised himself.  He was getting
older by the hour and yet he had no career aspirations.  His Bachelor's
degree in music history was worthless.  He probably had no special
aptitude for teaching and even if he did, he doubted that being this
native gypsy who appeared on people's doorsteps at their request counted
him within the ranks of teachers. What did he know that he could teach?
There was nothing he was trained for, he had no competitive strife, and
he did not know of anything worth doing.

He heard the sound of rain and so he went to a window but could not
see the substance of this harmonic pattering in external darkness.  He
listened to its orphic sounds, inventing reasons to go into this gentle
falling of sky: milk for his cornflakes or batteries for his Walkman
that he could purchase at the AM/PM or the 7-11.

He wrote:  Gabriele put on her hat and sunglasses and went into the
rain with a bag carrying her keys, passport, wallet, sketchbook, and
charcoal pencil as well as makeup and a bottle of this newly acquired
substance, perfume.  She had been told that there was a park near her
hotel where she could see the ruins but, despite floating on cloud nine,
when she arrived there all she could see were the ruins of her own life.

Michael was lovingly amuck in her thoughts and since she would see
him in a few hours she was in a heavenly abyss greater than having the
license to do some Italian stud fishing in the pool of her hotel. She
loathed how the chemicals of this infatuation had been detonated in the
Leaning Tower of Gabriele causing major structural damage. Furthermore,
the smoke of the aftermath distorted the world in such a fervent red
mist.  If she hadn't been on her guard or had been born a half-wit she
could have easily believed in love and bliss at every turn.  She, the
master of reality, guessed that she was walking on a precipice: that
very soon if she were to part with him for a week she would be there in
the pangs of the travail of loneliness -- a most lost and forlorn
creature and an ignominy to herself.

And yet despite her higher authority and monitor wanting her to
discard this man sooner rather than later, she regretted that she had
resisted the idea of him getting a room in the same hotel where she was
staying. She could have made his trip less lordly and more "in touch"
with the common man if he had stayed with her instead of ensconcing
himself in four-star hotels.  Also she would have saved him money, not
that saving money was so essential if he were indeed part of the wealthy
Quest family of Albany.

She thought it was noble that he, a member of the wealthy class, had
chosen to be a mere educator to help young minds. " In a sense," she
thought, "we are both educators but he has chosen to not make business
and money a priority whereas I yearn for money and things.  I am just a
fool who has gone from being impecunious to an upper middleclass snob --
okay, a bitch with a servant even if I call her my assistant.  And I am
not free.  I'm always fettered to canvas."  She meant that as free as
she was she always had to be unique, clever, and technically masterful
at all times to have a reputation and to pay her bills--one of which was
her tuition.  She could have gained a "scholarship" but she did not care
to have strings attached.  She did not want to teach pathetic
dilettantes in some basic class what a paintbrush and pallet looked
like.  She didn't want to sing to them, "This is the way we paint a pig,
paint a pig, paint a pig.  This is the way we paint a pig so early in
the morning."

Perambulating through the park, attempting to conceptualize the
internal and external reality she wanted to transpose to canvas, she
became distracted by Italian lovers. Strangely, for her, she looked on
them in joyful awe.  Unlike in America when she had wanted to roller-
blade through their interlinked arms or sweep away these lovers who
littered the world with their specious illusions, she now appreciated
them. These Italian couples abetted her fantasies of she and Michael
strolling together under one umbrella instead of the solo half being
under there now.  She could sense that her rule in the crumbling and
further leaning tower of Gabriele was faltering, floundering, and
foundering. This, while she walked, was evident by her sporadic humming
of Joni Mitchell's "Michael from Mountains."

Sitting on a bench in the gentle rain, she watched the heavy traffic
and the shuffling array of Italians through the iron bars of one of the
many walls that went around the park.  It seemed to her that it all had
the splendor and significance of love.  She was not at ease in this
rosy/fiery way of looking at all things and yet she couldn't quite see
the harm in such elated perspectives.  If all people were like Moonie
cult members avoiding negativity wouldn't the illusion transform
reality?   If love were an illusion, she couldn't see how it was
different from anything else.  Each generation of people were passing
shadows thrust out at dusk before being swept into darkness.  Everything
was an illusion although it seemed to her that some things were more
real than others or at least less illusionary.  Shadows were illusions
of tangible things and perhaps these blocked rays of light or diminished
forms were of something bigger. Was life just a pale version of what was
really out there? She did not know.  She was still waiting to get an
email from God.

This inchoate friendship/ relationship was releasing her from the
manacles of heavy, oppressive, and dragging thoughts and so in certain
moments she couldn't see any reason to oppose it.  Did she care to be as
dour and sour as a spinster?  Such women became more acrimonious with
each new birthday.

Before she had time to go back to her hotel room with only a couple
rough drafts to show for her efforts, they came for her in the park.
Although he, like his son, preferred motion, Michael had persuaded his
son to sacrifice a bit more of their time before her beloved alter of
art.  The taxi's meter was aggrandizing numbers for some time when they
finally found her and took her away with them.

He believed that his closeness to Gabriele would increase if he
showed himself as someone willing to enter her hallowed institutions --
institutions he came here to see but on the fifth or sixth time these
buildings were like visits to a mausoleum.

Only as they were trudging up more concrete steps did it occur to
him that he should have asked her if she wanted to do something
different.  And yet when he looked at her smile that was so radiant from
being linked to art and linking it to them he could tell that she would
never find art museums boring let alone cloying the soul.  He was the
deferential gentleman, and his inveterately shy son tolerated the
museums with little fidgetiness.

After they were inside for an hour she began to lean on him the way
he liked women to do even though he had not let them do it for many
years. But he detested how she was dressed.  Like at the park, she was
still wearing sunglasses and a hat that coaxed upon itself and draped
down as if it had been thrown into the wash too many times.  She would
pull the glasses down to the tip of her nose when they came to a work of
art, talk about it and what she knew about the artist (if anything), and
then move them up her nose. He did not understand this flagrant
violation of femininity.  It was as if she wanted to be as inconspicuous
and stealth as a bag lady for fear of being mistaken for Michelangelo.
He had avoided the subject in the taxi under the belief that she would
remove them once they were in the building.

"What is all this?" he at last asked as he pulled on the brim of her

"Oh," she interjected and acquiesced wordlessly as she smoothed out
her hair. He was pleased.  She was transforming from a sallow and
destitute street person back to an image more suited to be loved.
Within the machinations of self-centered man, each saw the other as an
"opportunity" and each one contemplated and re-contemplated what that
opportunity was in vain.

He wanted to move about and change visual images as if he were in
front of the television with his remote control, but she wanted to stare
for a few moments at these portals into the entity.

When they were outside again she put on her sunglasses so as to
counter these feelings of "tenderness" which could misdirect her down a
long and dark labyrinth of tight one-way back-alley actions leading
further into her own obscurity and to prostate positions at a man-god's
feet.  For he was already becoming a bit of an extension of her own
little life and a medium for more intense pleasures that she could not
reach alone, and so she put on glasses that he disapproved of so that
she would not lose herself to him even in the most miniscule way.

As with the brain that made deals and compromises to reconcile
contradictory opinions within itself, she knew that a woman would need
to be deferential in a relationship that was that extension of herself.
She told herself that she would try to be as little accommodating as
possible.  She smiled as if ready to laugh for the two of them at this
stage were nothing.  They were merely accidental traveling companions.
She thought that even if they did become involved with each other the
myopic perspective of a personal life and love might be nothing in
reality but attempts at cell replication in this organ of the Earth in
this organism of the universe.  Such was the human predicament of not
knowing anything of reality but one's own caprices. Her levity was
transient.  She became serious.

"Why do you wear those things?" He smiled.  His tone was more
bantering than condemning.  If it had been altogether condemning she in
her moody caprice would have walked away proudly, severing him without
saying a word in that behavior typical to those whose youth had been
besieged in the worst of ridicule.

"I don't know.  Sometimes I want to be different.  Sometimes the
glare of the sun gives me a headache."

"You aren't feeling sick now, are you?"


"Then take them off."

"Ask me in a nice way."

"Please do it.  Do it please.  Do please it."  He laughed.

Her womanliness flowed in and she took them off, begrudgingly eager
to please and a little excited that someone should take an interest--
even a critical interest-- in the mundane aspects of her life.  She felt
sexual energy hit her in a large wave since two wills clashing against
each other was a sexy thing.  They followed Rick who had run toward a
hotdog stand.

"Corndogs -- won't you have one, Gabriele?" asked the former MF.

"I don't eat meat, you know."

"Well, you should, you know.  Its why the brain size of man is so
much bigger than his hominoid predecessors."

"I doubt that much evolution can come from a corndog.  And if I had
a bigger head it would probably explode all over the place.  Wouldn't
that be a pretty sight?"

" Maybe your grandpa slaughtered your pet pig at his farm--
something made you this sensitive.  I wouldn't know about that but I do
know that as long as the killing isn't man to man it's just nature's
checks and balances."  She saw that truth lay there and not wishing to
dismiss it , she nodded.  She wondered if he had put too many limits on
his theme.  Maybe murder and wars were checks and balances of man on man
too. He smiled with a flippant boyish mischievousness. "You know, by
walking from the museum you have squashed at least a thousand ants and
other creepy things, but you haven't given up walking from what I see.
Survival of the fittest, Gabriele; and the fittest animal is the one
with the most bills in his wallet.  If the pig had come with a wallet
and could out-spend me I'd be the one on the stick. Come on.  Haven't
you ever eaten a corndog before?"

"Well, yes.  When I was a girl, I guess."

"That's probably the best life gets as an adult: secondhand
experiences, reliving childhood."  He ordered three corndogs and soft
drinks from the vender and gave each their share.  "Here!" She took the
corndog and began to eat with them.  She imagined the corndog as a
vegetable.  She imagined it as an important experience.



"More ketchup?"



"Yes." And she watched the bloody substance squeezed onto the boy's
phallic symbol.

"See, you enjoyed it as a girl until you thought that your pet pig
would be next.  Associationism."

"David Hume?" she chuckled.

"John Locke/David Hume--I'm not sure which. "

Rick had to go to the toilet and so Gabriele was left in
awkwardness at being with Michael all alone. He grabbed her hand and led
her to a bench.  He kissed her and she liked it even though the nearness
of him felt as if she were being stung by Houston fire ants.  It was a
sweet inimical sting.  It was a contract of mouths and joint breath, of
two becoming one but not of equal parts--more of a stronger company
forcing a large competitor in a merger.

And the days of the week proceeded on--that day closing most
eventfully on a surrey, a four seated bicycle, peddling and encircling
Roman sculpture at the Borghese Garden, and then watching a mock chariot
match in a field known as the Circus Maximus.  The ensuing days were of
seeing the bones of 400 monks at the Cappuchin Cemetery, going to the
ancient Pantheon temple of the gods with its open portal to the sky,
sitting in outdoor restaurants near fountains still spurting from
ancient aqueducts, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, and the
catacombs. Their final whole day was filled with Etruscan art, a return
to the Coliseum, another meandering around the ancient statues at the
Borghese Garden, and back to Laneur Parco di Luna amusement park for a
ferris wheel ride and trampolines.  For all her brooding on life she
realized that such contemplation was just hiding from it.  She thought
that motion and community were natural and having opposed them all along
had been foolish. Like diving into a pile of leaves, these simple
pleasures were transcendence into the entity. When she was again alone
at the airport showing her boarding pass she walked to the plane like a
propped up cadaver.

Chapter Twenty-nine

Lightning flashed into Hispanic Betty's makeshift bedroom and she
woke up to the artificiality of her life ensconced in a room that was
not her own with things in it that she was a little uncomfortable to
touch even with a dust rag. She was here and off the streets but the
glitter of being such seemed dimmer as she woke up in the flashes of

Her first self-coerced thought was of Nathaniel and needing to be
responsible for him.  She was compelled to perform her newly delegated
responsibilities of guardian despite not really knowing what they should
consist of.  This role of guardian, as she saw it, consisted of the same
cooking, shopping, and cleaning she always did plus maternal functions
that varied with each woman like checking on him at strange hours even
if, fettered in language barriers and stumbling about in her illegality,
she might not know what to do if something were really wrong.

Resenting the fact that this had been thrust upon her, she
nonetheless was able to drag herself out of bed to see if he was okay
for the maternal instinct to attend to the young during a storm was in
the collective consciousness of all female fauna. She knew that the true
challenge would be for her, who had no family or friends in this
country, to perform this maternal role without caring for him
inordinately.  She put on a bathrobe and snuck down the hall to his door
where light slid under the crack like an urgent note.

He was chatting with one of his Internet friends, seeking an
affinity with those acrimonious others who construed themselves as being
abandoned and neglected but hid it in cynicism of all other matters. But
to her who knew nothing of chat rooms or anything in particular about
computers the boy was simply writing a report for a class and so she was
hesitant to knock on his door and tell him to go to bed.

Hearing the pecked tapping of the keyboard, she imagined the
sliver of light at her feet as a computer printed note that said, "Mind
your own business, Betty, and go back to bed"; and, smiling from an
amusing end to her ambivalence, that was exactly what she did.  From her
bed, her lair (if she could call it hers), she ruminated about what had
happened to her recently:  Gabriele having picked her out of the
homeless shelter from the other strays; the proud and sagacious
confidence, if not hubris, which Gabriele possessed in bringing her into
this home without even asking her to forfeit her passport; the loyalty
generated from such trust; fear that the ringing of the telephone was
the attempted connection of immigration authorities; barely getting
around on the crutches of the English language, which she had ineptly
cobbled together from scraps; the fear of the six and sometimes seven
day a week servitude in this remote home diminishing what little chance
she, a homely 22 year old, might have of creating her own family; this
fear motivating her to get a cheap efficiency downtown although she was
rarely ever there; and how the imposition of taking care of someone
else's child was a calamity waiting to happen.

Over the course of the week she worried excessively.  She worried
that she hadn't heard from Gabriele to know when she would return. She
worried about having this awkward tenderness for the child (this wanton
thought of him) caused by having to care for him and make him her
exclusive concern and pleasure. And she worried that she would resent
Gabriele's return since it would inevitably pry away this maternal
fusion.  She also had specific worries of the present day: that this act
of absconding in his room, not wanting to play cards or board games like
Checkers and Monopoly, meant that he might not like her anymore; and
that he was now in his room for two hours and she wasn't exactly sure
what he was doing in there.

Then came more of those ideas that self-flagellated her flaccid
mental skin throughout the week: if something bad were to happen to him
she might not know about it or have the vocabulary to ask about it; if
she were aware of it that she might not be able to explain it; and if
she could explain it she might prevaricate or become twisted in
mendacities since she would not know how to explain her connection to
this Sangfroid family.

Still, no matter if these nightly ruminations made her placid or
just got her stuck in rehashing the same worries, she was glad to have
them. They resuscitated a self-concept that languished each day in being
cognizant of her own babbling in this north-of-the-border language.

She heard Nathaniel's footsteps in the hall.  She wanted to open
her door and call to him and yet she knew it wasn't so much for him as
for herself.  For she was feeling the travail of loneliness and it was
not imagined suffering but a physical assault on the body of the mind.

She did not want him to think that she was spying on him or that
she, a servant, would have the effrontery or impertinence to tell him
what he could and couldn't do in his own home; but still, she told
herself, she needed to monitor him. She once again diffidently walked
into the hall and sought the traces of the boy.  He was downstairs in
the kitchen as evident by the light.  Listening closely from the stairs,
she could hear the refrigerator door open and a pitcher of milk being

Had she not felt like a florid group of cells shot out like random
shells into the void that made up the cosmos, she would have been
satisfied by this and she would have gone to bed and slept soundly.
Instead, she went down the steps and into the kitchen.

"Knock, knock, Nathaniel."

"Oh, hi there, Hispanic Betty."

"You no can sleep none?"

"Haven't tried."

"I can to fix you food. Maybe you are hungry."

"No, I've got a plate of Betty cookies.  You know, I ate shit
before you came here."

"Es verdad?"

"You bet."

"Pobrecito.  Well, your mother is smart, brilliant, wonderful
artist.  Everybody has something good they can do and some things they
can't do none."

"You could put these cookies in packages and sell them," said
Nathaniel.  "YouOd get more than working here for my stingy old mother."
She smiled.  She had been random matter rolling about in empty space
moments earlier and now she was put safely back to earth snapped into
society like an instrumental piece of life's daily puzzle.

"Hispanic Betty, do you think school is like that?"


"I mean good for some people and not others."

"So-so.  Your madre, Gabriela, may probably kill me for saying it
but I think you're right.  I mean you need kid school and teenager
school. Nobody should to be a dummy--but some maybe they find that
special thing not in classes.  You go to bed soon?"


"Pronto.  Excelente.  Necesitas dormir las horas bastante para
tener un dia grande por la manana.  I go to bed now.  You do it too
after to eat your Betty cookies."

"Hey, Hispanic Betty, why do you have two names?"

She laughed.  "Because of Santa Gabriela.   Como se dice?  Nickname-
-it's a nickname.  Your mother has told you when she comes back?"

"I don't know" the glutton said evasively as he devoured a cookie.
"Buenos noches."

"Buenos noches, Nathaniel."

In the morning Nathaniel took a bus to the facade of the school and
then meandered downtown as obscurely as he could.  His virtual friend
twenty years his senior had told him that summer school wasn't "all that
important" and since this reinforced his own ideas about the matter,
there was a guilt-ridden conviction in his movements as he splashed
through puddles in effusive kicks of vexation.  Nathaniel, who was less
than a decade from the womb, had his mother as his conscience; and this
conscience chastised his every deviation.  And yet it was she who had
made herself inaccessible.  And when she had the chance to make it up to
him with a summer trip abroad it was she who had departed alone.

For a couple hours in front of a computer he used a joystick as an
extension of the arms of virtual boxers, and the flights of airplane
bombers. With it he could also maneuver entire armies according to his
sense of viable strategies not that his age and turbid thoughts at
present could offer much beyond the contribution of his reflexes. When
his body felt stiff he paid, left, and then lit a cigarette in the back
alley. Stealth in front of the back wall of the internet cafe and
computer game arcade and crouched behind a trash barrel, he tried to
release clouds of smoke in various shapes the way in earlier years he
had blown bubbles of various sizes into the air.  He coughed as much as
he smoked and the shapes of his smoke were nebulous; but his cigarettes
were a self-taught rebellion in back alleys like this one and lacking
male influences both good and bad maleness was an awkward stumbling of
trial and error.

Coughing inordinately, not able to master smoking a cigarette with
that insouciant fortitude and confidence seen in movies, he went into a
Ben Franklin dime store.  There he twirled the plastic sunglass rack.

"Hey kid, stop that," said a clerk  "It's not a merry-go-round." But
in fact he had been imagining it as such and his mother strapped there
by the clasp of Lilliputian schoolboys the way Shirley and her friends
had fettered him on merry-go-rounds and besieged him with kisses. Only
in this daydream there were classmate enemies from a couple years
earlier accosting Gabriele directly with their ridicule.  Simultaneously
they reviled, scoffed, and guffawed the culprit instead of her son with,
"Dirty lady bringing men to your trailer drinking their pee like a
toilet.  Our fathers know of you personally. In the Laundromats our
mothers talk of rationing water because one of your spells has caused
the lack of rain. "


"I'm buying," said the boy with his mother's contumely.  He pulled
out a twenty-dollar bill waving its voluble greenness as the true emblem
that conveyed everything about his country and his world.  Restricted
from spinning the rack, he sought less mindless thrills.  He tried on
various pairs of sunglasses before slipping one pair in his underwear
and then walking up to the cash register to pay for the other pair.  It
was a test of nonchalance and despite palpitation and sweaty palms he
passed it successfully.

He waited at the movie theater for the form behind the emailed
image to come to him.

"Nathaniel?" asked the man.

"Yeah," said the boy.

"Hi, I'm Tom."  The boy began to reach out his hand toward this
urbane form of manhood he wistfully hoped would befriend him.  A
handshake was a guise of strangers with amicable intentions; but he had
to withdraw his hand awkwardly when the man did not reciprocate.  "Hope
you haven't been waiting long--I went to get some snacks for us.  Every
boy likes chocolate."  He smiled but it waned insincerely as he
guardedly looked around the empty parking lot. "So you ran away from
school?"  He bantered and then shoved a cigarette in his mouth.  It
jiggled in his chuckle.

" Sort of.  So, you ran away from work?"

"Sort of."  Tom grinned sheepishly.  "We've still got a few minutes
until the movie.  I'd offer you a smoke but I probably shouldn't out

"I had one a few minutes ago."

"Oh, okay-- take off the sunglasses.  Can't use them in there."
Nathaniel pulled them up on his head.  "You look just like your photo
minus the glasses.  What about me?"

"Older in person," said the boy.

"Oh," said the man. His tone, as his word choice, was vapid as
life, to him, was vapid.  The thought of age slowly gnawing on him while
he engaged in life unawares made him want to evade conversation and
entomb himself with youth in the movement on a screen in a dark room.

"Let's go in if we can. I've got the tickets already.  You sure you
can get into something R-rated this way?"

"I've done it before.  Here: I bought you a gift."  He took them
from his underwear.

"Ah...Children's sunglasses with a ninety nine cent price tag on
them. You shouldn't have."  He sniffed them.  "Although I do love the

The boy gave a full hearty laugh.

"Do you always keep things in there like that?"  He was careful
about his words and glanced around the sidewalk. The boy did not
understand him and said nothing.   "What do I do with these things?"

"Give them to your son."

"I don't have one."

"When you have one"

"I won't have one," he mumbled evasively.  He opened the door and
they went in.

Seated together, they consumed contraband chocolate peanut butter
cups and cola that the man pulled out of his bag.  The man told himself
that the boy was like a nephew.  He did this to allay guilt that was
burdening his positive self-image and so that he might restrain himself
from a touch that could cause him to lose his prey so soon.  His
hormones boiled and steamed like the rolling levity of atoms and yet he
did not reach for the succulent young flesh there beside him.  The boy
told himself that the stranger was like an uncle for there was a dull
aching within him of one needing to believe that somewhere he would find
a man's interest in him -- one who would take him to baseball games and
whom he could confide in, one who could teach him how to become a man.

When the movie ended the man said he had a better film in his
apartment and they went away together to his furtive domain.

On his sofa bed, which had not been pushed back into a sofa, they
were propped up on pillows.  They were half sitting and half lying on a
bed watching a movie and eating grilled cheese sandwiches and potato
chips. Somewhere into the video was a car chase.  Apoplectic expletives
of the driver being chased--words that were part of the lexicon of
American culture but ones to which he did not understand fully N puzzled
and intrigued him.  He was eager to know jargon that he assumed was
linked to this thing called sex (whatever it was) and abbreviations like
S&M and MF that were stranger yet. The ideas within these abbreviations
were so hidden there that he got a sense that they were the conduit for
experiencing great things.   He felt that by cogitating all of these
mysterious words and abbreviations long enough he would be able to
transcribe them as if the English that was chiseled on the walls of his
brain were a Rosetta stone.  As he was pondering this Morse code of the
adult cabal, there was a feeling of a hand under his buttocks -- a hand
that then passed through the border of the elasticity of his underwear
to direct contact with his flesh.  Nonplussed, he turned to the
trespasser and saw for the first time an erection that seemed such a
freakish abnormality (here it was poking out of jogging pants that had
been slid down to his hips).  Even more fey was that mesmerized and
fixated look of yearning for absolute pleasure on the face of this
stranger called Tom.   Nathaniel removed the hand.

" What are you doing?"

" Can you help me?  Pull down your underwear. "


"Don't worry.  I won't tell anyone you came here to my
apartmentNyou wonOt get punished if only you help me a little.  Put your
mouth on it or let me enter."


"Your butt hole."

He asked himself it this was sex.  He had assumed that it was a
moonstruck look and a bewitched yearning of adult lunatics for kisses
from the opposite sex.

He wanted to scream, "No!" and to whine that he wanted to go home.
He was hurting and feeling diminished in years and he wanted to cry.  He
was scared despite his interest in how this freakish penis augmentation
was linked to sex.  He wished that he had never been so foolish as to
come here or even gone to the movie theatre with this stranger.  And yet
he tried to hold onto his senses.  He realized that to oppose a man
trying to get his fix of exhilaration might be risky.   He tried to
figure out the most innocuous or least deleterious path that his
childish mind could concoct.  It was mostly a feeling since he was not
all that logical.  He remembered that mesmerized and fixated look of
yearning for absolute pleasure on the face of this stranger.  It was
proof that although sex was linked to another person, it was mostly an
internal function.  To disengage himself and yet fulfill his curiosity,
he returned one of the strangerOs hands on his buttocks and placed the
other long hand onto the stranger himself.  Then he watched the stroking
and pumping that lead to a whitish disgorging. With its passing the
stranger went into the bathroom to urinate.  A few seconds later,
Nathaniel quietly exited the apartment for the first city bus he was
able to descry.  He kept wistfully hoping for his motherOs return.  He
missed her.

With all windows open and at top legal speed, the wind dishevels his
hair .His sunglasses are so dark that they make the day into dusk. His
car is strewn with myriad CDs but he repeats the same song from one that
belongs to his mother.  He sings along with Led Zepplin.

"I've made up my mind to make a new start./ I'm going to California
with an aching in my heart./ Someone told me there is a girl out there/
love in her eyes and flowers in her ha-ir./ La la la la/ I took my
on a big jet plane./ Never let them tell you that they are a-l-l the

He beats the steering wheel to the remainder of the tune until he
glances at the gauge and decides to pull into the next gas station that
he encounters .  He has to laugh and that laugh comes out in a bitter
and cyical drool.  He wipes his mouth with his sleeve.  His California
girl lives in Sante Fe, New Mexico where her husband  recently divorced
her.  She isnOt a girl but a woman who last week, after recuperating
from her face lift, emailed a photograph of her new face. She is just
Hispanic Betty but he doesnOt mind.  Older women are more appealing to
him and this one has always cared about him.  He will use whatever she
has to give to him.  He has no compunction.

Chapter Thirty

And for those who never had epileptic seizures or other afflictions
as young children and never witnessed their weaknesses mocked by cousins
or other "family," their blessings were to be content to emulate others
in their society and to follow the desires that were innate in human

But for outsiders like Gabriele, who when very young survived
their mothers and fathers running over them in tanks and their forging
of mutinous lives in the distant east only to then briefly succumb to
spells of seizures following the witnessing of state sanctioned and
individual applauded barbarity (in her case a couple weeks after the
Turkish man's decapitation), their only blessing was a key to the
discontent of their days.

Abhorring the cold and cruel functioning of Turkey's legal system
and the world at large, this little Kansas girl, Gabriele, became sick
upon her return to the States. When her sickness and flaccid
sensitivities were vehemently ridiculed by "family," it was through the
determination of her will that she willed herself well; and the seizures
that mysteriously came mysteriously vanished.

Realizing that she had gone from one group of belligerents to
another, and that this particular family was no less akin to war than
the other one, she tried to think how best to survive being in her aunt
and uncle's domain. This family's attempts to hurt her could not be
controlled but being hurt resided in her domain.  The latter was her
choice. She told herself (it was really more of a feeling since, as
precocious as she was she could not reason so well) that she would not
allow herself to be destroyed in deliberately planted psychological
landmines in this temporary coming together of family.  In her own way,
despite her young age, she felt the equivalent of "Why should I be a
casualty in a make-believe war when the real landmines are real indeed
and wide-spread in far reaches of the planet."  And so she walked
through back corridors of herself until at last she was in the outside
world staring back at a gigantic cage.  All alone in the outside domain
she read her books like a good scholar, and watched some of the six
billion spider monkeys within that cage.  She saw how they obeyed their
hungers to eat and so they did some tricks to get their food, hungers
for sex and so they stole monkey mates which looked similar to
themselves (monkeys were notorious xenophobes who only desired non-
threatening monkey mates from nearby trees), hungers for stability so
they clung to the same sets of branches and ate the same brands of
bananas, made sacrosanct rules for themselves like never defecating on a
tree, and developed little routines for themselves as to when one must
eat (the arbitrary concoction of breakfast, lunch, and supper given
appointed times) and when to swing to a new branch.  So, it was with
true chagrin that despite her obdurate snobbery at having to live beside
such opprobrious creatures that she should find herself as one of the
myriad monkeys.

The four of them had just returned from an American football game
and she was still numb all over like someone who had been kidnapped,
blindfolded, and finally freed with no explanation.  She would have been
less discontent to sit in a world football game (this thing Americans
referred to as soccer).  When young, she liked playing the game herself
so sitting through continual action, even if it were continually boring,
would not have been so bad.  Better, she would have eagerly challenged
Michael to a racket ball or tennis competition or played badminton or
croquet with the whole family.  Instead, like Patty Hearst taken from
relaxation in front of her TV at gunpoint, she had been carried off and
put on bleachers at an American football game.  The boys, whom she
nicknamed Mr. Placid and Mr. Petulant (Michael, formerly MF, being Mr.
Phlegmatic), had willed this to happen.  She couldn't have opposed them.
It was her son's tenth birthday. It was one of her presents to Adagio
that she should sit there on the bleachers stuffing these frankfurters
or weenies into her mouth and staring onto this little sea of
intermittent tackle and throw action (the object being thrown like an
irregular, phallic weenie).  There were crueler fates than the desire to
jump out of one's skull.  She had to continually remind herself that it
was her son's tenth birthday and that she was doing this for him. These
reminders helped her to construct a florid and baroque facade of smiles
and chatter.  Her chatter was a repetition of their ideas about the
players and the plays.   Since she hadn't really observed a thing and
they seemed to like womanly creatures who would parrot their ideas,
parrot them she did. The game being one and then two hours relegated to
the past, it still seemed to go on incessantly in their imaginations.

Here she and Nathaniel were 8 years removed from patty cake. Here
they were now nestled together for his blowing out of the candles on the
Betty Cake made from a Betty Crocker cake mix.  Here they were as part
of something larger--four birdies and a Betty in the nest.  Because of
the random bird droppings of fate these people were somehow hers (or at
least it seemed so according to her feelings).

She told herself that in her promiscuous years in Houston she had
been a crazy woman defying her repugnance of physical touch to play
seductress games, half wanting to conceive a clump of clay in whom she
could shape her animadversion of life, her gentle contemplative
preoccupation, and her glint of disdain.  However, these two--father and
son-- were born through the sanity of her head in a feeling of love.
These relationships conceived in the art and beauty of Rome were of
friendship and a shared exploration.

In both how she conceived Nathaniel and how she had auspiciously
gained the other two she had to applaud the unconventional way it all
came about.  It was much better than boy meets girl, boy and girl hunger
for each other, boy and girl claim each other to have something solid in
a world of passing shadows, boy and girl in part briefly dream up a
romance for themselves to escape their solitary enclosures, and boy and
girl in part become victims of a delusive mist the making of one's
selfish genes which say, "Mortals, reproduce so that we, the genes may
go on in perpetuity."

As Nathaniel blew out the candles, Michael began to cut the cake.
He did so within the last remnant of light within dusk while obtruding a
cloud of cigar smoke into the room.  Cigar smoke and clouds of it over
her food was especially loathsome to Gabriele; and yet she didn't say
anything. She bit her tongue and ruminated on what this thing called a
relationship was.  Her higher authority said,  "It is an intangible
bridge of one person to another that seems more real than the people who
make up the relationship.  It is keeping one's opinions concerning a
man's nasty habits in shackles."

"Fire!  Something burns in the kitchen," said Hispanic Betty as she
returned into the darkness of the dining room after going to the
bathroom. She had a handkerchief half wadded up in her hands but bits of
it still fluttered in her gestures.

"No, he's puffing on an old man's turd."  Gabriele's wanton words
galloped away like a wild stallion.

"Gabriele, why don't you try to be a little more crude if you can,"
Michael interjected.  "Betty, hit the lights if you will."

"Turn?" Betty saw the cigar as she turned on the lights. "Turd.
Oh!"   She realized that which was spoken about was "turd" and not

"Sorry, Hispanic Betty," said Gabriele. "Nathaniel didn't want to
wait for you.  He had to blow out the candles immediately so that he
could inhale his cake."

"I waited ten minutes, Betty.  How long does it take to piss,

"Adagio, women don't just lift the lid and spray.  There is
delicacy in it." Gabriele hoped to break him of his misconception.

"Well, she doesn't make a trickle.  I think she puts TP in there to
clog up what she thinks is bad sound because I don't hear nothing and
we're always running out of toilet paper."

Gabriele laughed.  "Double negatives are for Spanish, dear heart."

Michael said, "My mother would have taken dish soap and washed my
mouth out with it if I had said something like that."

"Would have?"  Gabriele laughed derisively.  "Either she did or
didn't.  If she didn't clean your mouth you wouldn't know that she was a
profanity policewoman ready to strike you with her bottle of Ivory dish
soap.  Am I right? To say 'Would' you would need to know about her doing
it so that's proof of you saying something wrong to provoke her to do
that outrageous action.  What did you do?"

"All right, Smarty.  OnceNjust once and I learned my lesson; and
no, IOm not telling it."

"Scared that Mom might come over with the Ivory soap once again,


"Please get that smoking turd out of my face."

"Gabriele, you are going to stop that crudeness right now!  Here,
give Betty some Betty cake!"

"Que cosas oir!  What things to hear."  She sat down between
Nathaniel and Michael.  "And smell."

"Betty," said Nathaniel, " Put your snot rags up your holes and you
won't need to know we are around."

"I taked care of you when tu madre was not here and this--you dices
cosas malvados a mi."  Betty got up with her Betty cake and moved to a
chair near Rick who just ate and withdrew from the world of commotion.

Gabriele hit him on the head.  "You.  Apologize."

"Sorry, Hispanic Betty."

She hit him harder on the head and the smack made his ear burn.

"Sorry, Betty."  True repentance, Gabriele assessed, was such a
coerced thing.  A person naturally saw only his own perspective.  To
have empathy for others was such a chore and in some cases was only
gained with the crack of a whip.

Here he was at ten with at least a tenth of his life completed.
Once an infant content to have his feet played with, each year he needed
more explosive pleasures and a larger array of them and this would
continue into insatiable hungers of money, power, property, sex, and
love.  But she knew discontent was in all things -- When she had picked
up Mouse from the inhumanity of the Humane Society it --

She could feel a nascent migraine swelling within her, and like
Betty and her allergies, she absconded to the bathroom.

A few minutes later Michael knocked on the bathroom door.  She
wanted him to go away but at the same time she wanted him inside to hold
her head and to pin her hair back from the rim of the toilet.  She
wanted him to understand her pain and console her in empathy.

"What's wrong?  You alright in there?"


But he heard her strenuous efforts to vomit like the cries of
stretched muscles.  They were as empty as yawns.  "YouOre sick.  Are you
sick?  What am I smelling in there"

She turned on the fan.

"Smelling?" she asked idiotically.

"Open up the door."

She opened it and smiled painfully. "Don't freak out.  It's a

"It's illegal."

"It's necessary. It's preventive potNsometimes when used
responsibly. See, once in a while, I feel a migraine coming on.
Michael, darling, it isn't homeopathy but it relieves symptoms for lots
of illnesses and migraines too."

"Flush it down the toilet.  What if the boys were to see you
smoking that?"

"What if they did?"

"Flush it down the toilet," he commanded.  She did as she was told.
She watched her tiny higher authority wave goodbye to her sadly as she
was sucked into the whirlpool with her ship.

Chapter Thirty-One

15 years ago when receiving her graduate degree in criminology at
Emporia State University Gabriele got cards of congratulations that were
not at all palatable to her.  Reading the writing on these weighty bits
of paper should have been just more insipid clogging of one's time and
shouldn't have made much of an impression on her unfavorably and yet she
couldn't help resenting this intrusive attitude of "Read me!  Read me!
Take moments of your life and read me!"  She believed that the factory
produced clichZs contained therein were not congratulations of past
academic accomplishments but more the prompting of those who advocated
that post-graduates utilize ideas for pragmatic pursuits.  These were
mass produced clichZs of ignorant professionals in bondage to the idea
that worth was wealth secured in slavish development of commodities or
services, which were the means of affluence. Such people erroneously
believed that, if well compensated financially, a life spent planning a
product to develop an artificial and insatiable thirst or governing men
so that they did not founder totally in their base instincts, as all
earlier predecessors had done, was a constructive engagement of one's
hours on the planet.

Among others, there was a card from her aunt and uncle and another
one from her perfidious and mutinous parents. She opened and read the
other rubbish before putting it in the rightful place but she let these
particular envelopes lay on the counter, near her toaster, for a day or
two before stabbing her foot against the ribbed lever and guiltlessly
opening the trash can's jaws.    "Saccharine for the alligator--gotta
feed 'gator," she thought and then pitched the envelopes and their
unopened content into the trash.  It was such an American gesture, which
was an alloy of a disposable culture and the independence by which one
might extricate herself from the visceral, vitriolic virulence of a
dysfunctional family.

And when she got her Master's degree in psychology in Houston
there was a pleasant absence of this driest of sentimental tripe until
one day Peggy sent a belated card and letter with "Urgent" marked on the
envelope.  Gabriele opened it begrudgingly.  It was one of those half-
hearted apologies of "If I've done anything that has made you wrongly
perceive..." or  "If I've done anything that has made you believe..."
with something like "that you are unloved" or "that you weren't wanted."
Now she couldn't remember the exact details even if there was that
indelible impression of one who would never apologize or admit that
there was anything to be sorry about.

Still, it wasn't an unpleasant letter (she had had worse) and her
vantage point when she read it from a lawn chair on the deck brought a
happy serenity even onto it.  A humming bird was boldly drinking from
its feeder of nectar, a butterfly was fluttering above a potted plant, a
young boy who was running for his ball was casting such an elongated
shadow in the morning sunlight, and this vertical shadow was appearing
somewhat three dimensional from her aerial perspective.

Furthermore, while concentrating on this invisible bombardment of
molecules rife in the verdant yard she was also trying to figure out how
best to sketch the atoms of fragrance and how this burgeoning dotty
texture of atomism, rather than impressionism, could be extended to the
sketching of the boy, his shadow, the butterfly, the humming bird, and a
pensive woman looking out of the window to avoid packing her things.

So, reading the letter and not being of a mood to demand contrition
of one who had never been contrite, she was not disappointed even though
as an undergraduate she had unwittingly expected a metamorphosis of
contrition to manifest itself in her aunt's sloppy handwriting.  A more
salient fact was that this particular letter accompanied with a greeting
card of congratulations was a pensive deliberation on their
relationship. That being the case, she kept it for a couple weeks before
at last passing it into the jaws of the trashcan. If not a tacit apology
this less than insipid letter was a wistful yearning to reestablish the
relationship and from it she felt deep sympathy for her aunt.

Hundreds of times anew from childhood, Gabriele was unable to even
go back for a day under the roof of an uncle whom she had successfully
fought off from attempted molestation countless selves ago. Gabriele
never mentioned this incident to anyone.  Although in early childhood
she was able to pinpoint it as the catalyst of their vehemence toward
her she never said a word.  So her uncle and male cousins disparaged her
for what time she got up, how she combed her hair, for being left-
handed, how she held her fork, the amount of time that she spent in the
bathroom, where she sat, the position she sat in, why she read so much,
why she was spending so much time reading in her "cage," that she was
probably shedding hair on the living room sofa, why she put her legs
together so prim and proper at the supper table, and why she opened her
legs like a tomboy or a lesbian cunt.  She told herself that childhood
would not last forever and that this was something that she would pass
through without crumbling to pieces.  "Matter of fact," said the voice
within her, "you will get through it all unscathed."  And throughout
each day of each year she remained sangfroid, believing that a
relentless cold stare would attenuate their cruelty, and yet no battles
did she win with the Antarctic blasts that she sent their way
unabatedly.  And years later she never mentioned it in her letters to
Peggy.  Why would she with reality not being an external phenomenon but
pictures rendered by the brain that were unavoidably reworked to justify
certain ugly scenes ("Why don't you want to go with your uncle and
cousins to the lake-really Gabriele, you need to work on your
disposition - no man would have you the way you are becoming").  And yet
her aunt sensed this absolute inability to return to Kansas in their
communication so she wrote that she would fly in to see her.  Gabriele
agreed but looked at her coming with dread. Removed, reshaped, and
orbiting around other things in the depths of space, Gabriele was a
distant star. A connection back to Peggy, she then reasoned, would take
enormous energy in a sustained sympathy and it was doubtful that even
with the best effort, anything good could be gained from it.

The meeting happened. The aunt, who was usually such a martinet,
asked about her niece's weight gain as if it could be anything other
than pregnancy.  Choosing chocolate as a more viable lie than a tumor
Gabriele lied in speech but Peggy lied in belief.  Worse, when pressed
on the issue, Gabriele promised that she would come back for a visit and
seek employment in Kansas.  It was a successful meeting of active but
coerced lies and passive, cajoled mendacities.  There was a facade of
feigned smiles throughout the day despite a sense of consternation and
loss. It was a day of many awkward and reticent moments of not knowing
quite what to say.

Now she was to be awarded a Master's degree in art history.  For
her it was an eventless day without ceremony.  It was a normal day of
putting up new wallpaper in one bedroom and then cleaning up to help
Hispanic Betty with dinner but interrupting the latter task from
incompetence and the need to drive the boys to little league practice.
Even until now there were no cards or special letters sent to her, and
this was as she liked it. She did not need anyone to congratulate her
because she did not feel that there was anything to be praised for.  She
might have learned the history of art but she had lost the sense of
herself as an artist. The cracks of her damp coldness had been filled as
complacently as a warm moss.  In family there was no discontent with the
world and within these heavenly cellars all else seemed musty and art
the specious delusions of crack addicts.

Heretofore most of her paintings had such a still contemplative
depth within the glint of the eyes of prostitutes and street people who
could pull down lightning; movement had the fading lines of ripples in a
pond; hard movements belied the simple pleasures; pallid colors
delineated the richness of form in a world of vanquished color;
friendship was portrayed with discomfited and inexplicable sense of
betrayal; people were stoic mannequins straining about in contorted
action and exhibiting eyes of consternation at being in ceremony and
societal roles that were not what they had imagined them to be;
Antarctica was a resplendent distant  background in contrast to the war
ravaged Middle East with its oil wells ablaze; and in stores where
customers headed for scanners with an incessant array of things, these
people were as blue as waves, curled and dashing as foaming breakers, in
movement seemingly happy but in practice discontent.  Sometimes the
dominant colors were tawny but pert, ruddy and pale, and recalcitrant
but with lament.  Often her protagonists possessed the ideal curves of
Raphael paintings and her antagonists had the angled linear depth of El
Greco portraits or of distant cars.  Her protagonists had a resistance
against the social instinct; but she had succumbed to its truth like an
insect to the light of a lamp.  She was flitting from one specious light
bulb to that of another: now not able to contemplate and finding sitting
still to paint a torturous sensory deprivation; and now with endorphins
and dopamines uncorked, she was oozing in the unbearable lightness of

Chapter Thirty-Two

By night she would lie with him in this hunger of flesh,
pleasure, and merger; and after the cessation of sexual intimacies she
would still feel undulations.  She would snuggle up to his body and
drowsily sink onto his chest while his head turned away from her,
parting to other dreams and other illusions since the fire for this one
had burnt itself out. The odors of his body would merge into her, and
they furthered her illusions of a metamorphosis into something greater
than the concoction of reason and the attempts at making sense of the
world, which had to be done alone --a sense that she engraved onto the
interior walls of her brain the way the ancient Egyptians chiseled
eulogies in the tombs of the pharaohs.  The smells of his body brought
to her a pleasant titillation if not love of all things that were caught
randomly by the magnet of her pondering. As she snuggled there she was
reassured that there were possibilities of loving the world in ways she
had never imagined by extending herself to him and becoming something
different than a stuffed polar bear with the stiff arms that the factory
of the human race mutantly created.

Then they would sleep some moments and his chest would no longer be
her life buoy at all but a magic carpet ride or a Shuttle flight as
gentle for her as if she were an insect on an eagle.  She would be taken
to where one's head might brush against the stratosphere before
descending in an arch back into wakefulness.  Upon them both awakening
there would be frivolous pillow talk. He would sometimes narrate
snippets of his life in a cathartic random response to whatever idea
preceded it.  In some ways he was like those who could not tolerate the
impersonal aspects of self-consuming jobs and would affirm their
existence to a psychologist or a priest at a confessional.  She learned
of the attitudes that drove his interaction with the world--a family's
overemphasis of money, which made him become an educator, and yet a
belief that owning and operating a business was one's only means of
success.  He was cognizant how the force of one's family caused one to
emulate and oppose its attitudes and had a sense of humor about this,
which she admired.

Often these talks were of irrelevant and petty matters that were
amusing on the pillow but so easily forgotten off of it.  One time he
asked her what she would be doing the following day; she told him that
she had to go to Wal-Mart to buy the boys some underwear and socks and
some paint for the deck, and that she might look around for some clothes
for herself at a mall; and then he expressed how once a cleaning lady
who was doing her work in the men's bathroom in the mall had caused him
to be unable to relieve himself.  She giggled like a schoolgirl at a
slumber party.  She reciprocated by telling him that in "Bang-COCK"
cleaning ladies "go in and out of bathrooms with their mops with
impunity."  She teased him that maybe there were these ostensible
cleaning ladies everywhere whose real duties were to cause inhibition,
clogging, and insecurity within the male gender.  From this her mind
took a tortuous and serious linking of ideas.  She began to ruminate
that society was upside down.  Cleaning ladies in men's bathrooms,
forced to smell urine, soap, and bleach all day should be paid the most
and that they who were the benefactors of the world like presidents and
prime ministers should be paid the least.  She argued that only then,
when equality was gained and each person given either money or
admiration as compensation for their work, would the world be a just and
harmonious place. He laughed, thinking it was another joke, but she was
deadly serious.

And yet once he told her something significant.  He told her that
his mother was not his mother at all but his aunt; that his real mother,
suffering from post partum depression, suffocated his baby brother in
the bath water, dumped him, Michael, in the bracken waters of an
abandoned well at her parents' farm, and hung herself in a shed.  After
the funeral, his aunt was urged to come to them from her home in a small
Italian town.  Gabriele felt an empathy as deep as the gods for she too
had been run over in family which for her made hugging, touching and
feeling emotions such an alien plain to this date. She too had been
recalcitrant and had done antipodal actions to thwart this Aunt Peggy
and Uncle Jake but for all her freedom the actions had been emulation or
rebellions against this absurd, vague memory of family.  Thinking of him
at the age of three clinging to rope and pail she knew that she loved

Hate was everywhere. It was the striving to exist and to have a
dominant importance in the inconsequential affairs of man. Just as the
provincial Korean bravado within Sang Huin or Shawn had made him so
mercilessly obdurate in administering justice against his sister and her
pregnancy, so the Americans camouflaged innate aggression behind terms
like axis of evil, rogue country harboring weapons of mass destruction,
links to Al Queida, and liberation for the Iraqi people.  They and their
preemptive strikes, they and their selective targeting with improved
smart bombs, were killing and harming thousands of civilians after
evoking psychological trauma in this failed shock and awe campaign.
They, by heat and explosion, decimated myriad soldiers who either chose
to be such to secure a decent livelihood or were conscripted with
threats; and yet the Americans melted their bodies in this internecine
campaign sending them up amongst the other gasses the way thousands of
their civilians had been melted within the World Trade Center towers.
The Saddam Hussein regime, for all its internal atrocities, had posed no
new threat to the world.  It just had the potential for potential and
this was enough because the days were dark indeed.  One group of tyrants
and their sadistic entourage holding a nation hostage for decades had to
be the example for the capabilities of their virulence was greater than
that envisaged by Al Queida -- at least so the George Jr.
administration, for all its cowboy stuttering, still glibly and volubly

He thought this as Saeng Seob sat down in the living room and
said, "Can you really think with that thing on?"  Sang Huin knew that he
couldn't--at least not well--but the television was their child from
which conversation was begotten and extant.  Without it their intimacy
would have exhausted their conversation long ago.

"Turn it off if you want."

"It isn't bothering me.  I'm used to AFKN by now."

"Well, sometimes AFKN has movies about American history but I guess
not with the war.  I needed a break from CNN. An hour ago CNN reported
that we--I mean the Americans-- bombed a residence where they think
Saddam Hussein was staying at. Four two-thousand pound bombs. They
thought that killing the innocent people of that block was nothing next
to the chance of him being there-- he and his sadistic sons. Who knows
how many innocent people were collateral damage."

"Do Americans think it was right?"

"I don't know."

"Was it right?"

"I don't know."  It was a cold calculation, a moral choice that was
not meant to be that of humans; and yet someone behind a desk had made
this one to have a chance of reducing the length of the war and its
casualties.  He had never been good at modern math so his studies were
centered innocuously in musicology.  "What do I know about this?" he
asked himself.  "What do I know about anything?"

"Will they do that to the North Koreans?"

"I don't know.  Don't know--hope not. What are you reading?"


"What's nothing?"


"In Braille?"


"You can't see the pictures.  There are no pictures in that book,
are there?  There are words.  I guess being blind makes you have to
develop a vivid imagination."  Seong Seob did not say anything. "Comics
about what?"  He was trying to control this disapproving undertone that
often crept into his voice.  He disliked wasted leisure.  It did not
seem to him that leisure should be such a frivolous pastime with the few
when the many were so needy.  He also did not like Saeng  Seob's lack of
motivation; and it was only because of his friend's blindness and
knowledge that his mother had thrown him like a coin into a wishing well
of death that Sang Huin managed to stay mute about this issue.  For the
first time a better reason for not judging others formulated in his
head:  he who was a promiscuous homosexual, an unfaithful partner to his
friend, one who had urged the abortion of his former girl friend's
embryo, and had by his Puritanical Korean values been an inadvertent
abettor of the crime against his sister, Jun Jin, had no moral authority
to state an opinion about anything. Even if Saeng Seob at times
exhibited double his own reticence making conversation short of
impossible, he knew that this was even less of a reason to judge him
than the fact that he was such an unmotivated sloth.  Still it was
natural to think that one's own introverted character was right in being
such and that someone else who was sometimes even more reticent, was
abnormal. He thought, "So this guy has a part time job with his cousin
and no real hobbies outside of strumming on a guitar and light reading--
these are innocuous pursuits in one who from his pain could have become
a hardened criminal.  Surely there are blind bad guys in penitentiaries;
and who am I to judge him?"
.     "A cat"



"In a book?"

"A collection."

Relinquishing the idea of having a meaningful conversation, Sang
Huin changed the channel to CNN and got his fix of war updates; but a
half hour later it became an overdose.  He turned down the macabre
sounds and returned to his computer.

By day Gabriele would make calls to her beloved so that she could
get that rush in the pleasure receptors of her brain.  Then, when
warranted, she would go over to the site of the future school and
Michael would always ask her what she thought of the construction up to
that point.  She would say her unvaried line of "It sure is coming along
well," which of course it was invariably.  Occasionally she would sketch
her ideas of the interiors of faculty lounges, secretary offices, and
other miscellaneous rooms.  She would submit them to his blank stares
and then she would have to admit that she did not "know the first thing
about interior design." And yet the same aversion that she had toward
holding hands in the day was making her into less of an active lover at
night.  Grateful to be made real by being pulled out of the stuffy
chamber of her head, still it was sometimes difficult to repeat the same
half hour rapture each night as if this hunger for merger and
thoughtless ecstasy were to bring on intimacies and awareness that the
previous night's half hour failed to do. This perspective was
exacerbated all the more when she considered the fact that the urges had
been no less poignant during all their other times together.  Each night
there was his hard thumping to please himself fully with little regard,
now, for the best means of her arousal.   Although still pleasurable,
and even more of a gyrating release from thoughts, it now seemed more
like being tossed in a blender, and each night her embraces became more
like frozen fruit.

On weekends they often went to nurseries to buy shrubs and trees
for the landscape of her home as well as that of the school; but one
Saturday morning he got her to acquiesce to this yearning to find one's
maker that was there in the collective consciousness of primordial
modern man. At Mass she fidgeted with some beads in her lap and chanted
Hail Marries.  She chanted these archaic trifles although, tacit and
hidden away amongst her private thoughts, she had her own version of a
Hail Mary: "Hell Mary Juana, full of recalcitrance, the Lordess, Santa
Gabriela, be with thee.  Blessed art thou in the salubrious realm of
illegal substances and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, beer and
chewing tobacco. Hell Mary Juana, servant of the Gabriele goddess and
her partner, the sun god, give us something sweet to hallucinate now and
at the hour of our death. Amen."  She looked over at Nathaniel there in
her pew.  He was barely able to keep himself from launching through the
roof.  This sententiousness and pomp was too much poop for him too.  For
the first time in months she felt a special cognate affection for her
son that excluded the others.  Feigning smiles only when cognizant of
Michael glancing toward her and silent as death, she tacitly spoke to
Nathaniel in an imaginary utterance, "I'll make this up to you--we must
all play with the tinker toys of language in thought to have some degree
of meaning within our petty lives; but God and heaven are empty make
believe words of a feeble animal.  They are a feeble species who need to
look for external meaning and finding only tragic random chance within
the mortality of the family and friends that have given them pleasure,
and then their own mortality as well, resort to storybook scripture,
churches, and chants.  Their jargon of God, heaven, hell, and sin don't
refer to anything-- totally empty words--and to have to forfeit running
around, celebrating life to sit uncomfortably in this dark Saddam
Husseinish torture chamber--I'll make up for this.  What can I give you?
What about a dog or a gift certificate to Swenson's Ice Cream parlor?
No, too much sugar. I wouldn't want you bouncing off the walls any more
than usual."

Following the service the boys were sent to a Catholic version of
Sunday school and she was paraded in front of a bunch of stiff strangers
with eyes euthanized by talk of the heavens.  He introduced her to
various people but the introductions were an awkward mix.  She was given
their names with little else and they were given this spiel that she was
an artist who had become his girlfriend and was now contributing some
ideas for the interior design for his school, whose beauty was
distracting him from building his version of a loosely affiliated
Catholic school, and who might draw some "pictures" of the school's
patron saint. He said it in various ways but each time she felt flaunted
like a woman seeing the image of herself in a bra on a lit billboard in
front of a bench at a bus stop only in her case bust size and her
ability to wear lingerie beautifully did not matter. It seemed to her
that he was trying to boast a vague connection of an artist to the
school, which she couldn't quite figure out unless he had the idea that
she would teach art there.  The stout and husky figure that she was, she
couldn't see that his introducing her as if she were Helen of Troy would
grant him a lot more customers. A half hour into being introduced and
memorizing names that she would forget once out of there (one young
Russian who exercised with Michael at a fitness center and had the most
forgettable name of all) she told herself that she did not want the four
of them to stay there a minute longer.  She used English like a crowbar,
demanding that he remove the boys so that they could enjoy the remainder
of the day; and from his saturnine expressions she could see that she
was the condemned one.  As the condemned one she knew that she would be
free to implement whatever she pleased since he would be too sullen to
have it any other way. She knew this for she had been condemned before.

Not needing to worry about being condemned since she was already
such, she went ahead and argued that the boys should be left with
Hispanic Betty if the two of them were still planning to go to the
nursery.  She didn't want to see them dragged through flowers, trees,
and shrubs (Nathaniel spilling his incessant complaints and disturbing
big Mr. Phlegmatic by making him morose) or kept in the hot truck the
way they were on the previous Saturday. To be in the truck all alone
with nothing to do but slap one another and pull each other's hair while
she and Michael were plant hunting for verdant plantings, they would be
nothing but prisoners and their apoplexy from incarceration would
probably cause severe fraternal loathing. If nothing else, their whole
day would be constricted by adults' self-centered preoccupation with
contrived accomplishments since it was adults who ruled over them --
adults who went contrary to the senses which implored that through
contemplation one might celebrate the day.

Gabriele and Michael returned with two German Shepherds as well as
five or six tree roses in the back of the pickup.  Caring less about the
plants, Gabriele was eager to witness dog meets boy and boy makes dog
into a friend but the joy was stymied in stepping inside the house.
When they went in they saw mercurial Mr. Petulant executing punishment
against the son of Mr. Phlegmatic. Nathaniel had Rick's head under the
running water of the faucet. The crime was spilling a glass of milk; the
punishment was a near drowning; and the perspective she chose to take
for a fuller understanding of this situation, as Michael pulled off his
belt, was Piaget's idea of the moral absolutist.  As the brazen non-
flinching boy was being whipped, she thought to herself that she would
need Betty to monitor their every move from now on for children's system
of government was more procrustean and draconian than that devised by
adults in most, but not all, areas of the global jungle.

On a Monday built vapidly on the vacuous graves of wasted hours,
she heard the school bus return and the barking of the two hounds.
Curious about how Nathaniel related to his dog when she was not around,
she went to the studio window to witness this interaction of dog and boy

Outside the window there was the same rectangular wooden container
where, at the trailer, she had planted a flowerbed which an owl then
used as a domicile. Now it was fastened under the studio window with a
different choice of flowers.  She remembered the days preceding that
move to Ithaca: having climbed onto a tree, which had been the umbrage
of the trailer, with slow, surreptitious movements, shooting the owl
with a tranquilizer gun, and pulling its body into a laundry bag without
falling from the limbs of the tree.  It had been a time consuming
undertaking and at the time she had doubted whether it would actually
succeed; and yet here the owl was well acclimated to its setting.
Looking onto the bird now she was pleased: it had succumbed to the
belief that the trailer had been nothing but a dream just as she had
awakened or succumbed to the belief that her arduous efforts to paint
visions imagined in her head had no substance and that only filling
one's mind in the clutter of activity that involved others did one
actually live at all.  After all, contemplation involved having to
contemplate something and what else was there but this ball, this planet
of movement?  A racket ball player was called such because she played
racket ball and a rebel because she rebelled--all people had self-worth
by defining themselves in words of action.

From the window she noticed that Nathaniel played with his dog when
she was not around.  He actually had some affection for it.  Had she
bought at least one of these dogs for the experiment of discovering his
ability to care or to prompt that attribute? Was it for the
companionship of both boys or was it for her own companionship?  Maybe
the dogs were bought to fill the hours when she wasn't taking the boys
to their scout meetings, buying clothes for them, rooting for them on
bleachers at baseball games (she had tried rooting for them as a
voluntary concession stand worker, but her tacit words and supercilious
coldness to the inconsequential and insufferable gossip of these
motherly peers brought her a flurry of unfriendly glances not all that
different than what she received in all the other days in the years of
her life), tree planting, or going to the site of the school to say, "It
looks like its really coming along well."  It was all of this and more.
So much that was selfish, altruistic, curious, and indifferent went into
the simplest of acts.

She could see there, in this dog centering its actions on her boy
and her boy responding by throwing out a shoe for him to fetch, a reason
for all this carbon to be divided into so many organisms.  Looking
through the window at this interaction (saliva drooling from the mouth
of one and smiling fangs from the other) she saw that the universe
communicated with itself and that it's self responded in a distinctly
varied perspective.  It was by doing so that the universe was at last
real.    There was no doubt that there were other worlds like the Earth
throughout the cosmos.  Simple pleasures, simple interactions, were the
entity, and she knew that the whole thing was good.  She knew that this
overlapping of the universe in carbon beings interacting with each other
in their distinct ways were the talking heads that made the universe
real.  The sight of forty-dollar sneakers there in the drooling
waterfalls of the dog's mouth caused her consternation.  Still she did
nothing.  She just watched and recalled what had occurred yesterday.

Yesterday, Sunday, when she had approached this gathering of boy
and dog Nathaniel had shoved the animal away and when it still pounced
on his legs as he walked away from it, he kicked it on its belly.  She
didn't mind him showing that he disliked her.  She saw it as a passing
stage: a diminishing but still open animus toward her for the trip to
Asia and Europe without him, resenting this distribution of her
attention to include two other males, taking umbrage over her slight
favoritism of the chosen over the natural members of family if he did
indeed perceive it (certainly he saw and resented the grocery shopping
with Rick that was done without him), this refurbishing of the whole of
family within contrived Friday night croquet games of bonding regardless
of  the mood and wishes of individual family members at the time, and
this slipping out of a boy's closeness to his mother so that he might
fit into himself.  She did not concern herself with that in the least.
He could critically assess her and show his dislike openly so long as it
was done respectfully. True motherly love was raising children and not
needing to smother them in maternal, nurturing instincts or expecting
understanding that their egocentric beings could not muster.   The
paddling yesterday was not as punishment for hostilities toward her
(hostilities that existed because of issues he was trying to resolve in
himself) or to oppose Skinner's belief that negative reinforcement
accomplished very little.  It was done as justice for the dog and a
statement on behalf of it and all other animals that they weren't there
to be targets of aggression.  It wasn't negative reinforcement per se
for none of that could work with him. She knew that skinned knees from
bicycle accidents and the whippings he got from Michael (Whippings she
was beginning to resent) were proof that the boy was somewhat stoic to
pain. Outside of learning that Nathaniel did not dislike his pooch (only
herself) she lost herself in Internet articles on owls until she and
Rick began racing and banging their carts against each other down the
aisles of the grocery store, and Monday went by uneventfully.

On Thursday morning, when everyone had gone in accordance with
their habits, she ate some burnt toast with her grapefruit and for ten
minutes stared at a coffee pot with glazed eyes.  There was a time when
inanimate objects never failed at reflecting the ennui by which she
gazed at them, causing profound ideas to be projected onto her
consciousness like a great beacon of light shown onto a screen in dark
movie theatre --a filmed documentary of the entity and its discoverer,
Parmenides.  Now meditation on a blank wall brought a sketch of that
wall within her memory and this was all.

So, from pure boredom, she decided to watch the dogs that were all
alone and unto themselves in the back yard.   Since she wasn't exactly
next door to Antarctic penguins and these two specimens were infinitely
more fascinating than calculating the exact strands of gray hair in the
underbrush that lay fully on her scalp, she cast spells onto the dogs
making these smelly bodies with panting faces oozing out halitosis
objects of mild curiosity. They were certainly something to consider for
those who had nothing better to do with their time. Betty was busy
behind the loud vacuum cleaner, and Gabriele could hardly retreat into
her bedroom to escape the noise since the fusillade of Michael's
flatulence a half hour earlier had been so rife that the air freshener
could not do much but dilute it in an equally reprehensible odor.

She went out on the deck and looked onto a world that was
definitely for the dogs.  The German Shepherds moved in the yard
unrestrained.  In a more genuine way they seemed happier to sniff and
distinguish bits of the world instead of this obsessive bliss of
centering themselves on human masters.  Much of the time Nathaniel's
anti-social dog growled when Rick's dog came near him; but, depending on
its mood, the two at times could play and wrestle with each other
amicably.  Gabriele fed them Puppy Chow and watched how they
relinquished their freedom to instantly come for their meals.  She
pondered how all creatures were always slaves to hunger and the desire
to obtain more than their allotted share--at least both characteristics
were apparent in Nathaniel's dog.

Her thoughts echoed the breakfast talk a little over an hour ago.
Rick had wanted to bring his dog to school and had suggested that he
could tie it to a bicycle rack.  Nathaniel had scoffed, "Right,
ignoramus. D'you think Betty'll come behind the two of you with a
pooper-scooper to keep your ass from being expelled.  I think not!" Now,
thinking of it, it still struck her as funny.  It hadn't bothered Rick.
He had retained his placidity the way his dog was now happily wagging
its tail and looking up at her while its partner stole the food that was
in its dish. As agreeable as Rick's dog was, she could understand Mr.
Petulant's canine perfectly. Half-battered and half-loved even for a few
days in this thing called family, it was lost there in the bosky
thickets of confusion.  Made to sleep with Nathaniel so that it might
know him as master, it could already sense that his love was tepid at
best. Feeling inferior and groping around in pleasurable associations so
inextricably linked to pain it was sometimes bumptious, aggressive, and
striving to leave a concept of its superiority onto the other dog's

Months passed.  She could not think anything in particular about
the owl or the dogs let alone anything else.  They just existed along
with her existence and as incommunicably as her reticence. The late
April rains were making shallow ponds within her yard. Sodden as the
mustard MF put on his eggs, or the streams rolling across her sidewalk,
the turgid sediment brought turgid sentiments of desperation in her
mind. Then out of nowhere came a chain of events as if a blessing.  They
offered a respite from the void by the clogging of one's days in myriad
tasks. It was clutter devised by her bed partner's making and it beeped
according to the schedule in a PDA/ pocket computer that he lent to her.
It all started one numb day when Rick's dog was licking her face and she
wasn't even cognizant of it doing so and the telephone was ringing but
she wasn't aware of it either; a message on her old answering machine
informing her about  Nathaniel's truancy; the imbroglio discussed in
pillow talk; and the smell of MF's breath cajoling her to withdraw the
boys from public school and to home teach them until the private school

Eager to escape imprisonment in the void, her intransigence on the
issue began to break down and there she was arguing with him playfully,
agreeing with him silently, kissing him, needing the intoxication of his
breath, and that tendentious male assertiveness of that one right
perspective. Her tenuous arguments were playful and like any male he
felt licentious flames from this clashing of wills, this electric and
sexy friction, and this knowledge that by rubbing her in his arms and
planting his seed in her he would conquer all resistance.

The next morning she kissed her MF at the breakfast table in front
of the others without inhibitions, massaged the nape of his neck, and
then sat there holding his hand under the table as she bobbed on some
type of cloud. Betty's frying of bacon did not seem nauseating; the
mustard Michael put on his eggs radiated warmly like the sun god, Aten;
and the flatulence of one or more males at the breakfast table seemed
aromatic. Convinced of her mission to be a teacher, she was suddenly the
indispensable cue ball setting others in motion but being banged along
with them. Her busy new life often involved the search of the right
books to purchase; the readings, the making of handouts and worksheets;
her impatient lectures, enforced homework, and administered tests; her
punishment for recesses of savagery when Mr. Placid's head of hair was
often pulled out of the sink like a fisherman's trophy; more lectures;
taking Mr. Placid--never Mr. Petulant-- with her grocery shopping or
searching for acceptable amateur art for the school lounge (a Gabriele
Sangfroid deemed not tame enough); sending another one of Mr.
Phlegmatic's suits to the dry cleaner; and then driving the boys to
baseball practice, boy scouts meetings, or swimming lessons. Her only
contemplation during the first week of this teacher act was to sit on
the toilet to urinate and defecate.  It brought not only to her a
physical catharsis but, from the bathroom window a view of Betty burning
raked grass and leaves in the yard.  Smoke hovered over the tree limbs
like a thick massive spider web and she saw that the fire that was
leaping and the smoke that was hovering was her own life.  She told
herself that she loathed contemplation. And so the months passed by in a
vapid and dizzying succession of things to do.  Real existential
pondering or the internal creation of meaning within herself were
troubles she did not need to ponder.

Sometimes she doubted herself and wondered whether motion had
become an ersatz; and this quandary was as pesky as a fly trying to land
on the oils of her shiny nose. She kept having a recurring dream of
floating on the mattress of her bed to undulations and the sounds of
waves splashing against a wall.  These bedroom walls had old pallid-
yellow wallpaper that was bubbled and flaking off and patterned onto the
strips of wallpaper there were hexagon shapes.  Cartoon versions of
herself and her family were trapped in each hexagon like semi-beings in
monads that were unable to connect to the bigger picture, but like the
wallpaper they were fading away.

In a last exasperated appeal for her to apply for work at the
school before it opened, he reminded her that the boys wouldn't be there
to teach any longer so she would need to do something with herself.
Ruminating would never succeed; but an external activity like painting
that was so outwardly self-absorbing might be used to subtly reiterate
to them who she was as if an action or a set of actions were the
summation of a being.  By painting she could only thwart the aspirations
of others by making them realize that her own selfish agenda came before
theirs.  Such an appearance would make her outwardly narcissistic and
impregnable in their perspectives. For otherwise they could take her
apart piece by piece the way souvenir hunters chipped off Teotihuac‡n or
walked off with the Petrified Forest.

He would perceive the less concrete images in her paintings to be
feral, and yet he would remain taciturn, scowling but leaving her to be
herself.  Maybe there would be some of these bedtime reminders, although
not so many as now.  Now there were these continual reminders of suits
to have cleaned, grocery items for his palate and pallet (colors for his
mouth that she would be vile and immoral to ignore) and reminders of
what their boys needed, the agenda of pleasure for these little monkeys
whom she was meant to chauffeur from place to place (a karate class for
one, a baseball practice for another, a friend's birthday party for one,
a jean and shirt buying extravaganza for both).

But now, she would not paint for she did not need it to support and
pull herself back as if she were the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Her
foundation, she told herself, was not as tenuous as this.  And even
though she was a true woman for him, catering to family matters and
allowing herself to be his whore (he asking her questions about men she
slept with so that it would excite him enough to maximize his pleasure
when impaling within her) she told herself that she could do it without
needing art as a crutch.  She was a true woman as he liked it and yet
had her own sense of being fully Gabriele within her own head.  Painting
would merely be a prop of a weak feminist.  Yes, she could have told him
that she had her art, that focus of the realm of ideas that had been her
vocation before he moved in with her, and he would have scowled
discreetly, never criticizing its odd feral qualities directly. But she
would not have believed herself to be an artist anyhow since expressions
were being effaced in each new day of life's mundane inconsequentiality.

She just gave him a wry smile and shrugged her shoulders.  Too
busy: the phrase was air above her lips and it just hovered there like
the gossamer smoke strewn in the branches from Hispanic Betty's burning
of leaves.  She didn't dare say anything.  She just let off a whiff of
air.  With head in denial, she silently repudiated that the school was
even being constructed let alone finished, and that the two pupils who
put motion and a sense of being busy into her life would soon be gone.
She didn't want to discuss any of it. Still the school opened, not being
subservient to her solipsistic thoughts.  Its opening brought to her
regret that she had chosen to not work there and that a role and an
interaction with others, which had so easily defined her, would no
longer be there to cling to.  She had circumscribed her yearnings to go
on with teaching, was now miserable, but believed that not prostituting
herself in high school psychology classes or elementary school finger
painting had been the right choice.  Wounded not by vacuous stretches of
hours but by the severing of this habit to place meaning and happiness
on one's role and interaction with others, hers was a battered retreat.
She withdrew into her own books to not be entirely lost unto herself and
she knew that knowledge contained there was one step toward building
herself apart from the addiction to the chaos and motion of others.
She again returned to the nothingness from whence she came.  She
sometimes sat in her studio with a carton of Swenson's ice cream on her
lap reading books on owls like any good ornithologist, got nebulous
readings of Tarot cards that she smacked into Celtic designs on her bed,
or sometimes drew funny faces on the patio with the chalky edges of
rocks. Feeling discontent if left alone for five minutes and
incrementally disconcerted for every minute beyond ten, she often
interrupted Hispanic Betty to ask what she was doing as if housework
were pantomime and the gestures could only be guessed at.  The days were
invariably long and despite their plodding movements they clunked into
each other like two emaciated furless dogs in Thailand that were
enervated and stupefied by starvation and blindness.

She questioned who this MF was.  The boys were easier: the
preferable one who had not come from her womb purred more often than he
whined and the one with the demanding mouth railed and complained in
less of a dual personality than the former but on the pettiest of things
from her forgetting to buy him Pop Tarts to Hispanic Betty's abuse of
toilet paper; however both could be easily characterized as egocentric
toy soldiers who beat their drums chaotically when their batteries
needed recharging or a TV advertisement had indelibly branded a "need"
onto their brains.  The other one (this Michael, this MF, this Mr.
Phlegmatic) she knew in multi-interpretable bits for all her intimacies
with him.  She knew that he was glad that Rick now had a mother but this
might have just indicated that he was glad to have some woman chauffeur
his kid to after-school activities and take the kid clothes-shopping so
that he did not need to do it. She knew that he claimed to be pleased
that Rick now had a surrogate brother who might "toughen him up a bit"
but this was ironic since the only one he beat with his belt was
Nathaniel (except for occasional S&M sessions with her, and during that
time she would struggle to gain the mastery of the belt, and it was she
who more often then not would be the sadist).  She knew that he had
taken the boys to an amusement park a week ago when she was going
through what she believed he thought of as an imaginary sickness, and
yet she wasn't sure if it was from love that he removed all noise away
from her or from simple indifference and neglect.  Inconsequential facts
littered her mind about Michael (facts like him giving his aunt a
poinsettia every Christmas or that he liked to sodden his eggs with
mustard), but was this inconsequentiality the real summation of the
man?  Was she, his woman, in such a needy state of mind that facts like
this and the manipulative power of sexual pleasure so much more enhanced
when with another should posed themselves as intimacy.  Was this the
epitome of a woman?  It might be; but then, she told herself, she was a
female and not a woman, and that she was a goddess and not a mere
mortal.  Her love of him, she judged, was a few facts mixed in fantasies
begotten in neediness.  What she asked and chose to know about him and
the feeling of love she mixed as color on her pallet to spread around
these facts were her own invention.  She decided that she did not know
him at all.

Her mind would not rest it there. She continued to think, "His
obsession with viewing his watch could be from nervous energy instead of
a desperate wish to succeed at every turn -- who knows?  His change to a
CEO instead of an educator could be interpreted as a wish to make the
educational experience everything that it should be so who am I to say
that he is a derelict to values I was attracted to.  His buying of other
businesses and doing whatever it is he does shows industriousness and
the desire to leave something to his children."  She said these things
to convince herself that she did not have a stranger who slept in her
bed.  But then she thought,  "Even if he is a stranger -- there have
been lots of strangers in my bed.  Should I chase him away out of a fear
that we are all strangers?"

This enjoyment of hearing his footsteps on the linoleum when he
stepped into her home, his smell within the cologne he wore, the
pleasure he gave her (now less synchronized to her needs, now more male
banging, but still pleasurable), the beautiful black eyes that were hard
and virile, sideburns on his handsome, swarthy face, virile hair on the
nape of his neck and as abundant growth on his fertile chest, and a
general masculine handsomeness that told a woman, that breeding with him
would grant unto her beautiful babies with little or no chance of
deformities--these things  were the most primordial instinctual drives
of attraction and bonding that made her love him but still she did not
think that these things were so much him as they were the promptings of
a woman's breeding.

He was a busy little entrepreneur opening a fitness center with his
Russian friend one month, an Internet cafe the next, and some minor
investments in between that she knew less about.  He did whatever he did
throughout the day. Questioning him about his schedule annoyed him in
his taciturn ways.  She was made to feel that he did not want business
to intrude on his personal domain or the personal domain to intrude on
business but that, she knew, might just be her own positive
interpretation.  For what she knew there might be another woman.  She
didn't own a man's body.  He could do with it whatever he wished so long
as he didnOt bring any disease to her.  She told herself that jealousy
was a primitive instinct of men warding off the responsibilities of
babies that werenOt composed in part by their own DNA, women who did not
want to lose income, that food of the hunt, for themselves and their
kids, and both sexes wanting to ensure that their bed partners were
slavishly loyal at assisting their pleasures. She told herself that she
was beyond such absurd human foibles as jealousy.

And yet she did not know who she was: she was now not even a
teacher--just one more person groping around lost and clinging to others
and, to a much lesser degree now, the commotion of the days, in order to
be cognizant of being at all.  She did not want to think of him,
herself, or the demise of her higher authority nearly a year ago, and
how like a good captain her higher authority had bravely gone down the
toilet with her reefer ship.  She thought again about the boys.
Children were often thought of as callow adults making their inchoate
journeys into adulthood. To her, adulthood was not superior to
childhood: it was just two of the four links of recycled life no less
purposeful than any raindrop slapping into the surface of a river which
would then ooze back into the ocean before slowly being evaporated back
from whence it came.

Sitting on the patio doodling on the concrete with the chalk of
rock in her right hand and left hand like Moses holding back the waters
of drool that came from her affectionate beasts, she felt the beginning
of what she could tell would be an intense migraine.  She tried to ease
her apprehension by joking to herself that it would be no more than a
seven or eight quake on the Gabriele scale and yet the foreboding
knowledge of her vulnerability was exacerbating the pain and making her
body rigid. In that sense it was a bit psychosomatic. She went inside to
take one of her pills that never did her much good.  The water was more
immediately beneficial.  She drank it voraciously to lubricate her dry

As she was drinking her water she heard the lonely howls of Rick's
dog.  Disregarding simple pleasures, which should have slid down the
apertures of a being's senses and filled lonely vacuous gray matter with
curiosity and awe, this dog was fixated on her.  It "needed" her.
Domesticated creatures were so needy and clinging but she was reluctant
to disparage this behavior as altogether delusional since she could not
even disabuse herself of such inane notions. It probably was delusional
but it still deserved sympathy, and so she once again went out to be
with these dogs.  Was this the only meaning of life, she asked herself,
this soothing of imagined mental travail?  She believed that it was.
She picked up Rick's halitosis harried hound and took it into her
bedroom--the cat, Mouse, having succumbed to cancer shortly after she
returned from Europe and its body placed in a shoe box that was buried
in the forest behind the house.  She went to her bed and had the dog lay
at her feet.  She pressed her palm on her forehead and closed her eyes.
"In Biblical times," she thought in an attempt to recall, think through,
and solidify to long-term memory what she had read, "one of the fairest
of fowl was the owl.  The historical origin of the owl is, of course,
the historical origin of the bird which probably evolved from one of two
groups of dinosaurs, the--oh shit, I can't remember-- during the early
part of the Jurassic period.  The term, Preavisanussyphilus or I donOt
know what, is applied to flying reptiles.  SomeEwhat's the
wordEornithologists--some ornithologists say the earliest bird was a
tree dwelling reptile which began flight by gliding from one branch to
another although other experts say that it was a running, leaping,
terrestrial animal which gradually increased the length of its leaps by
the use of long forelimbs.  After the appearance of Archaeopteryx
Lithographica, the first known bird, the myriad species descended from
it.  It is hard to isolate when the first owls evolved.  The first owl
may have come out of the Cenozoic era of 70 to 40 million years ago if
not the latter part of the Mesozoic era, which was 135 to 70 million
years ago.  The Mesozoic era was characterized by large seas, lakes,
deltas with deserts, and occasional glaciers.  If the owls came out of
this period it was when the last of the dinosaurs were dying out.  The
Cenozoic era had volcanic activity and geological unrest.  The
environment was -- " She couldn't concentrate.  She wasn't confident of
her facts.  They were like sand falling through her fingers.  She went
downstairs into the kitchen, took another pill with some cola, and then
fixed some burnt toast but the idea of buttering it seemed so nauseous
to her that she ate it bare. Then she went back to her bedroom, feeling
as mad as the pharaoh, Akhenaten (or Akhenaton) who purportedly
worshiped the sun in his desert utopia until he was fully mad.

Her shadow on a wall in the hallway when passing into the bathroom
to vomit seemed fey and she somehow felt subordinate to its alien
presence.  She felt so needy and wanted the shadow that was Michael, the
last vestige of something somewhat real, to merge into her shadow to
give it pulp and tangibility that she, who was less than her shadow,
entirely lacked.  She wanted the virile male shadow to stifle her
thoughts, to free her from ever becoming old, and to shoo away
loneliness and meaninglessness N an aloneness pesky as that incessant
fly landing on that shiny nose of hers and as meaningless as a sedentary
stick insect spending its life camouflaged as an inanimate object.  She
vomited before she got the lid up and the colors looked like the hard,
tactile brushstrokes of thick orange palpable paint of a Van Gogh.  Both
her trembling head and her strained and feral vomiting moans seemed to
be to the rhythms of Chopin's Funeral March.

She cleaned the bathroom for a few minutes and almost felt
salubrious to be wiping with her sponge around the toilet; but, losing
energy and feeling the heavier drumbeats of a migraine's gradual
crescendo she realized that she was just passing out of one pain and
going into something more intense.  There were noticeable barricades to
her thinking, checkpoints in the junctures of her thoughts, the looting
of her ideas, and a forehead on fire like buildings in Sarajevo.
Feeling extremely weak, she dried the floor, toilet, and sink with a
towel, rinsed out the sponge, and lay on her bed.  She felt startled to
see Michael enter the bedroom.

"Hey," he said. It was his version of 'hello' distorted as
it was in an oxymoron of informal indifference. She wondered whether she
could expect anything better than this as sick and listless as she was.
All sick people were an ignominy to those who were well just as
contemplation was an abhorrence to all that spun in action, and as death
was an opprobrium to the living.

She imagined the wraith of her higher authority saying, "Creatures
of motion in their mortal frames unto their termination at death are
incapable of true contemplation. Needing to subdue the earth, theirs are
half-hearted prayers never to reach their destination Eth never -- "

"You have the dog in here," he reproached her with a gentle disdain.

She now wanted to waive him away like a fly -- he who a few minutes
earlier had been needed no less than air to breathe.  She didn't say

"Huh?" he demanded

"Yeah."  It was her version of 'mind your own business.'

"Come here, Roman."  He clapped his hands and made a downward
gesture to the dog.

"He won't come.  Look at him."  His eyes are alarmed and his chest
is heaving.   Still, I think he knows that if I don't hold out as his
aegis he can still elude you. He knows that you find it repugnant to
pick him up so he's playing dumb."

"You're spoiling him.  Get him out of here.  I'm not coming into
the bedroom tonight if it smells like this."

"I smell your farting."

He cracked a smile bashfully despite himself. "Betty's cooking."

She wanted to say, "True she likes frijoles, jalape-os and the
like, and the boys like Mexican food too" but her pain trod into the
breath of the utterance like children kicking puddles.  She was doing
her best to put on an agreeable facade--that appealing facade of the
bantering bourgeois in the levity, the amusement park, that was supposed
to be the world-- but it was hard.  It was too hard.

"Why are you just lying around?" he asked critically.

"Just resting," she lied.  She frowned.  His repudiation of her
sickness, as not all that different than the attempts at malingering by
former pupils whom he had beaten with his board, irritated her; and yet
she doubted herself.  How did she know what he thought?  How did she
know that he believed that her malingering was synonymous to theirs and
had disdain for both?  She did not know anything.  It was speculation.
It was discerning a mood and then devising fiction around it. But then,
how did she know that she didnOt know what he thought he knew?  "I'll
paint later.  I am just thinking what to paint on" she lied again to
test his reaction toward her proposed return to herself.

"You should wash that dog--both of them."

"What time is it now?"


"You hardly ever get back here until eight."

He went into the bathroom where he began to brush his teeth. The
toothbrush muddled the cohesion of his words. "I'm in between meetings.
While I was driving I spilled some coffee and then some ketchup from my
hamburger.  I need to change jackets so can you take the one I have on
to the cleaners?"  Water came down the faucet but it was a parsimonious
dribble. She thought to herself that rich people were so stingy about
the damnedest of things.  She could not hear any water but she did hear
him spit into the basin. With a toothbrush still in his mouth he glanced
into the bedroom.  "Are you unhappy with something?"

"No," she said.

"These headaches again?" His disdainful tone had the sotto voce of
exasperation as if she were the pesky fly who should be shooed away.

"Fuck, don't say it that way.  It isn't psychosomatic."

"What did you say?"

"The headaches aren't psychosomatic."

"You need to watch that mouth," he said sternly.  He rinsed his
mouth and spat.  Then to soften his austerity he added, "Remember
there's a bottle of Ivory Soap in here to wash out your mouth.  You
know, if there weren't two imitative boys to consider I wouldn't really
mind all that much a slip here and there. As you have pointed out a
bunch of times guys get enthusiastic at ball games and say things they
shouldn't say. I've been one of those guys.  Fine, I can buy that; and
you are kind of right--the love and hate in the tone of voice matter
more."  He turned off the faucet and came into the bedroom with the
stained suit jacket on a hanger.  "Look over here.  I'm putting the
jacket on the chair.  Make sure that you take it this afternoon so that
you can get it tomorrow morning."

"I'm ill, Michael."

"Then have Betty take it."

"She can't drive."

"She should know how to sit in a taxi, don't you think?"

"Well, I wouldn't know whether she knows how to sit or not," she
retorted spitefully. His voice was a meat cleaver to her thoughts. "Why
don't you ask her yourself?   Tell me something: I want to know why you
don't want me to paint."

His face cringed. "Since when have I told you to not paint?"

She was silent and taken back since it was true that he had not
expressed anything like this. She told herself that she needed to
acknowledge this fact to be truthful to herself.  He had not made her
into a wifely errand girl but it had occurred from following his
subliminal promptings.  It was her womanly love that had made her
succumb to his every wish less enthusiastically than most women but with
enthusiasm nonetheless.  If she were a has-been artist she (not he) had
made it so.

"Sorry," she said.  He was in the clothes closet, putting on a
different jacket.

"No problem."  He looked on this slug hanging from a pillow with a
bad smelling dog on its lap.  Her lifelessness disgusted him. Then the
next moment he was disgusted by the thought that she was there, dormant,
as if waiting on a bed for her clients.  Scrambled by a non-Christian
desire to rape her and a bored yearning to leave, he spoke what he knew
that he should not say. "Listen, Gabriele, there is something on my
mind:  my father and my aunt have asked when they can meet you.  When I
introduce you, of course, I want to say, 'This is my fiancZe, Gaw-bre-el
spelled like Gabriel but with an E, loving mother to Rick and her own
son, who talks mildly and politely with no fowl words, and she is a
respectable teacher or she is an artist.' Of course I don't want to tell
my parents 'This is my fiancZe.  She lies in bed and gets headaches just
as she did in her former profession.'  'What profession is that, dear
son?'  'Dear mother and father, it is the oldest non-taxable profession
which is somewhat illegal.'"

"My heavens! -- can I say 'My heavens' without getting my head cut
off like a bad Turk or aberrant Afghan woman not wearing her burka?"
She took a deep breath and tried to maintain a supercilious dignity.
"You certainly have been repressing your hatred of me, mister.  I for
one am certainly glad that you have had your little catharsis."  She
feigned a smile and spoke weakly. "Please!  Leave me and my imagined
sickness. You are hurting my head."

"I don't hate you.  I love you.  I sleep in the same bed with you."

"This grinding of sexual organs against each other, Mr. M.F. Quest
is not the making of love."

"Grinding of sexual organs."  He sniggered.  "Well, thatOs a new
one.  Here we go.  It's your perverse perspectives in your paintings and
life in general that I object to.  You arenOt always that way and you
donOt have to be that way. The fact that you overcame obstacles to
become such a successful artist was my initial attraction.  I encourage
your art -- still-life, portraits, landscapes, beautiful things.  Those
thing are a Catholic expression of God -- not the surreal I don't know
what that you put to canvas.  It sells.  That's good.  It's critically
appraised.  That's fine. But you need healthy expressions."

"Former professionEnon-taxable incomeEsomewhat illegal.  I canOt
believe you are rubbing my nose in this.  I had a son to raise.  You
were one of my clients.  You arenOt perfect either.  I think we
shouldnOt say bad things.  My head isNitOs too much"

"I'm sorry, Gabriele.  That was--" He halted.

"Out of order," she filled in.

"Okay, a bit."  Looking at the lifeless thing in the bed he spoke
diffidently, unsure of his words.  "I would be honored if you would
marry me.  Now, get out of bed and let's talk about it--take an Aspirin
if your head hurts."

"That doesn't work with these things.  What works you had me flush
down the toilet like an ignoramus."

"Where did you get it from?  One of your Johns?"

She laughed bitterly.  "No, I don't want to marry someone this
ignorant and insensitive."

"So what's this been if you don't love me."

"I care about you."

"What's the difference?"

"IOm tempted to say none, but that isnOt it.  Most people wouldn't
agree with me but I'd say that being in love is psychosomatic and caring
is real; so yes, I love you in a real way but I won't marry you.  I
won't be owned by a man and I won't feel lost to him."

She said it despite these urges within her continually to just nod
to whatever he said and to cling to him as if family were the most
concrete of life's illusions.  It was only from being run over by a tank
or two and having known the temporary nature of an insufferable family
that she was saved from that illusion.  She smiled.  It was wry with a
general look of confusion.  As he walked away she found it mildly
amusing that girlhood tragedies were delivering her from feminine


Spinning as she was in her own head with important short term
memories that should have been for survival in her environment seeming
so elusive, she questioned if she were now in Ithaca; but for the most
part believing that she was, she wasnOt sure whether she had driven or
had flown there.  She was not only spinning within her own head with
facts about petty events which happened to her recently scurrying and
absconding every time she tried to corner them (what she did yesterday
and what she was doing now a mystery), but instinctual drives and
fantasies of her subconscious were rife. They were at one moment
spinning strobe lights and at another time like twirling maelstroms of
dirt and trash flicking clockwise or counter-clockwise according to the
caprice of winds.  Each time she tried to ground herself within an idea,
a thought, a memory of her life, it was futile.  The winds would not
allow it.  If this spinning of a fragmented self were to stop she might
be able to sense herself more fully.  If only there was certain
knowledge of where she was at she would have a sense of a numb self
existing someplace.  But feelings and desires were amuck like a dust
storm and so who she was and where she was at were unfathomable at
certain moments.  The drugs she was now beginning to believe Candyman
had slipped into her drink were allowing her wanton subconscious to blow
everywhere and nowhere now that they could escape from a fragmented
container called self.

At one moment many of those inconsequential but darker and
subconscious thoughts were of the wraith of Rita/Lily hovering around
her with a countenance showing the consternation of being abandoned and
forgotten, the yearning to kiss Candyman and founder into the black silk
of his body, the virulent idea of rollerblading through the held hands
of couples so beautifully and speciously linked together in their little
eager walks along shopping areas near Cornell University, and the
voracious, hedonistic wish for anything that could feed her with
pleasure. In another moment she had an outright hatred of self-centered
lovers who would frolic together as if the world were conceived as
nothing but the orange glow of a sunset for everyone, an indifference
toward others who seemed so atavistic and unworthy of her company, the
image of people being breathed in and out of her life with as little
conscious regard as oneOs own breath, fantasies of women passing the
romanticism of love to her like an Olympic torch, the fantasies of young
men as juicy to look at as the Candyman, and the general hunger to merge
with beauty.  Still, in the next moment there was this strange hunger
for people and company to pour into her vapid life, the wish to launch
herself like a rocket, the trail of fire and heat from burning fuel
roaring from her vagina sending her to more intellectual realms where
the needs of the body wouldnOt sap one of mental purpose, and that
desire for pleasure and adventure to escape her stagnant intellectualism
that was stifling her from feeling alive.  She believed that she was in
some drug dealerOs house in Ithaca and yet was beginning to believe that
her beliefs were mad.  Her only conclusion was that she couldnOt
conclude that either of these matters could be conclusive.

"HeOs spiked your drink with Ecstasy," said the higher authority.
Gabriele formulated her question to Candyman in deference to her higher
authorityOs promptings.  "No, I didnOt spike you drink none so relax
there, Snowflake. I just prepared my special."  "What is in this special
of yours?" she demanded as she unbuttoned part of her shirt.  "HmmEmy
own little recipe."  "What is in this shit?  IOm fucking hot."  "You
sure are.  NobodyOd say that a husky ainOt sexy if he has any sense at
all. Anybody does, he donOt know the type of mama I got in here with me.
Not much of a snowflake, are you?  ThatOs fine; so fine!  No worry about
that, Mamma.  I like older chicks and husky women are better bed

Was Candyman a hallucination like Rita/Lily a few minutes ago?  If
not, wouldnOt that mean that she was back in Ithaca?  For what she knew
she could be ill from a migraine and resting there on a bed in her home
in Albany with her son bringing to her wet washcloths to counter the
fever that burnt under the surface of her forehead. However, a
hallucination was made up myriad transient images, and the sight of
Candyman had constancy. Either by plane or by car she had gone there.
That she knew.  The Candyman was there before her face to face.  She
couldnOt imagine or hallucinate anything so clearly. And he was the
landmark for her knowing that she was at Cornell University in Ithaca,
with its eternally young and often drug addicted specimens, as much as
the World Trade Center towers, the Empire State Building and the Statue
of Liberty were landmarks of New York City.  She anxiously tried to
isolate what had happened to her ten minutes earlier for to be without
some facts about this self would be like blocking the apertures of the
senses with gauze and drifting in and out of consciousness with no self
at all N a mutiny against the higher authority and the first mate by
those with no navigable skills whatsoever; and as a bad omen from
tossing the corpses off the stern, the ship being tossed around in
toilet waters.

She more or less remembered knocking on his door and the ensuing
conversation thirty or forty minutes earlier in a rather generalized
impression.  "Whadaya want, Snowflake," he said through the crack of the
chained door.  "I need some weed," she said.  "Whydaya think we got
somethinO like that in here?"  "Because youOre the Candyman," she said.
"Is that a fact?" he said indifferently.  "You a cop?" he asked.  "No,
of course not. IOve been here before even if it was a couple years back.
DonOt you remember me?"  "No, I donOt."  "Gabriele, the whore."  "I
donOt have a thing for you."  "Tunafish sent me the first time I came.
He was your client and that of my own."  "Whatzure job?  How doyaO know
Tunafish?" "I gave massages."  "German massage?"  "Yeah."  "Oh, I
remember.  Almost went to you myself.  You gave Tunafish  blowjobs."  "I
serviced him upon occasion."  "Come in Mama and get your weed." He
unlocked the door and let her pass into his living room.  Then he locked
himself in again. He fixed her a drink and she drank it as one tends to
do with drinks. "Master Card and Visa machines ainOt workinO today so
IOll assume you to have cash and you assume me to ask for it."  "Any
discount for me, Candyman?  IN"  She felt embarrassed that she had
forgotten her ATM card and only had $50.00 in her purse.  She had come
so far and now there was the fear that the lack of these bits of paper
called currency had the possibility of being an obstacle to the
procurement of her stash. He did not say anything for a while but just
smiled and let her sip the lemonade. She felt a metamorphosis as if she
were cracking out of the icy teddy bear with the stiff arms that the
factory of the human race mutantly created and were now whimsical winds.
At last he spoke. "OCause I know you are a professional and be all the
more serviceable with large and handsome black men like me so IOll make
my body there in full Ovailability for you taste buds. IOll let you
tongue and lips give me a bath the way you did Tunafish and maybe there
will be a discount for you."  He chuckled. His teeth glittered green as
the walls of nude centerfolds seemed to be turning around and the floor
seemed a soggy mire. She was a game to him and so with all games he, the
player, savored the moments, not wanting to delve into pleasures at full
thrust lest they end too soon.

Now, when she concentrated as fully as she was capable of she
remembered the drink and an imprecise replica of this initial
conversation but there were some minutes (she wasnOt sure how many) that
she couldnOt account for as if she had slipped and fallen into some
vacuous abyss unawares and then had mysteriously gotten to the other
side of the chasm, slapping off the mud that besmirched her clothing
without being much more cognizant than this.  Maybe she had serviced him
during this period or maybe she had just fallen into a vacuous state of
one who knew the state of the world: the multitudes who were calculative
and disingenuous users; life as the frivolous extroverted game of using
others to rack up points; a smile as an artifice; society as billiard
balls slapping against each other and rebounding; they who were
customers of that which was deleterious to them and were ready to use or
be used to get it; and the few higher ones linked to compassion and
empathy, whose intellect saw the world and yet had to give a cheerful
rendering of it as "life" because one did have to live in this world and
celebrate it the best one was able to do. For the empathic ones, hidden
beneath hardened facades, their sensitivities were under the scabs of
hardened smiles.

"CanOt figure out why youOd come all the way to Ithaca for some
weed if you are living in Albany like there ainOt drugs in other
cities."  "DonOt know anybody else," she said.  "Just the Candyman." Her
fingers paused in this unbuttoning of the blouse as if a wave of
sensibility had momentarily washed upon her.  Obviously she hadnOt
serviced him yet but she could see that she was ready to do so. She
detoured his eyes from staring at her breasts by asking him to show her
his different brands of marijuana.  She thought of Nathaniel to clog her
urging to be intimate with Candyman but she couldnOt remember many
specifics about yesterday no matter how hard she tried.   Still she
unsuccessfully concentrated in the hope that her ponderings would pull
back the memory.  It was the following:  Yesterday Nathaniel stepped off
the school bus and went inside.  She was seated on her white colonial
chair as superciliously cold, hard, and beyond human frailties as the
statue of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial seen on a winter day.  She was
the throned Antarctic queen.

"Hey there.  How was school?" she asked coldly


"We need to talk!," she said.

"WhatOs wrong?" he asked.  He looked petrified as if she had
discovered his secret relationship with the man who had made going into
R-rated movies so easy for him (just the cost of showing his behind and
letting those fingers graze on his two hills and this payment deferred
until after a movie or movies were finished).

"Nothing she said.  She smiled her haughty smile and spoke in her
typical phlegmatic tone.  "IOm wondering about taking another trip

"With or without me?"

"HmmEI love your subtlety.  Maybe with you if you care to be a
vagabond and donOt get in the way of me painting."

"What is a vagabond?"

"No Four Star hotels N living in little dumps that look like
closets with no air conditioning and a shared shower.  Kind of like Boy
Scouts, but no camping out in the forest and bad ventilation in the
rooms.  Hotels for back packers that are worthy of demolition."

"WhatOs demolition?"

"Anyhow, ugly old buildings that if you were to look at them you
would puke on sight."

"You can count me out of staying in slave rooms Ospecially if there
are shared bathrooms.   ThatOs nasty.  I Od scratch my toes and feet
every minute morning, day, and night.  I scratch my toes and feet for an
hour every time I shower in the locker room after gym classes.   I like
four star hotels."

"YouOve never been to four star hotelsNjust seen photographs of
Rick staying in one while in Rome."

"I want to go.  You need to let me go!  But there will be no

"ArenOt you the little male dictator.  You sound like Michael.  Do
you like that guy?"

"Better than nothing, I guess."

"OBetter than nothing, I guess,O" she mocked.  "Glad to know that
perspective.  It makes it easier to know that you wonOt be upset when I
tell you something.  Well, how do I say this?  There are 6 billion
people on the planet each with his own personality, routine, and dreams
to acquire this or that. Even lovers canOt get along. ItOs an absolute
miracle that we donOt go around plucking each other's eyes out.  It is
good that we are smart enough to know that there would be ramifications
for actions like that.  Okay, here it is:  better than nothing BEFORE,
and NOW you have nothing.  IOve kicked out that rigid giraffe, Michael.
At this house he is no more.  Michael wonOt be living here any longer;
and this trip to Euro-Asia, if I decide to do it, will be to celebrate
not having that guy silently pull my strings any longer."

"And Rick?"

"And Rick."  She sighed.  "I guess he wonOt be here."

"You gonna kick me out next?"

"DonOt be ridiculous.  You are my son."

"If I was to burn down the house would you keep me then."

"If you were to burn down the house your butt would be as hot as
the house but you would still be my son and no, I wouldnOt throw you out
of the house because there wouldnOt be a house for either of us since
you would have burnt it down."

He laughed hysterically.  His motherOs clever sallies enthralled
him.  Then he smirked hatefully. "Men donOt like you very well."

She smiled widely.  "It is a reciprocal thingNgoes both ways. I
donOt care what these self-centered little beasts like or donOt like.
Three cheers for men not liking me and going their merry ways.  Hip hip
hurray! Hip hip hurray! Hip hip hurray!"

"I think you are strange.  You arenOt like other moms at all, you

"What are they like?"

"I donOt know.  When I go over to my friendsO parentsO houses and
stuff they donOt say weird shit all the time."

"But weird shit is what it is all about.  How can you be
interesting without saying weird shit continually.  It is impossible."

"Do I have to take care of both of those dogs out there?"

"I donOt know.  I guess someone will have to.  WeOll make it a
joint chore.  WeOll share the burden and make the dogs feel loved and
happy here.  What do you say?"

"I say that is a crock of bull shit."

Her mind was preoccupied with this declaration of being called
weird. "IOm not weird.  IOm just clever.  What is weird are moms whose
brains change into rocks N probably from too many years of marriage."

"When I was in the second grade kids would say that you catch men
outside your trailer, put spells on them, and then you drink their pee."

She looked at his earnest face.  "Really?  Is that what they said."


"Why didnOt you tell me that then."

"I didnOt want to hurt your feelings."

"Oh, how sweet."  She felt visibly touched that he should have
thought of her feelings over those of his own.  She felt more optimistic
about him growing up into a decent individual. "Anyhow, I will be going
someplace N maybe back to BangkokEwho knowsE anywhere really from Tokyo
to Tijuana."

"Without me?"


"I donOt care where you go.  BettyOs here to take care of me.
SheOs a better mother, really."

"Even if she takes up all the toilet paper you want to use on your
precious butt?"

"Even then," he said.  They heard the dog barking, an opening of
the door, and a rush of footsteps.

"ItOs the favored one," said Nathaniel.

Rick rushed against GabrieleOs body and this physical presence
made her feel a sense of aversion to the boy.  As much as she cared for
him his grip was like a monkey upon her bark.  Her niveous limbs just
stood out awkwardly and she did not know what to do. But where thawing
caused snow and ice to crack and fall to the ground, her thawing was a
cold chill that caused her legs to begin to shake.  Her arms embraced
him in the desperate clinging of love and she began to cry.  It was the
first time she had cried since she was a little girl.  It was the first
time she had ever cried according to her memory.

"So the darker reefer is richer?," she asked.  "You got it, Mama."
"I donOt know the difference really.  Maybe you just better mix it all
together and weOll hope for the best."  "Sounds sensible.  All right, I
can do but with a bunch of the cheap stuff since you are getting a
discount."  "I want to know what is in this drink."  "ThatOs abitaO
mountain dew with some lemon juice, abitaO water, tad bit of urine, and
some truth serum.  You feel that you want to tell the truth?"  She was
picked up and lifted off by a wind and it took him several minutes to
call her back.  "Gabriele?  Gabriele?  Gabriele?"  "Who?"  "You.  I was
wantinO to know if you are wantinO to be truthful and tell me your dark
secrets.   "Okay," she said.  "Okay, start talking."  "Okay, she said.
"He slapped her cheeks with his fingertips.  "Do you want to tell me all
your secrets and be truthful with me?" His hands were now in her shirt
unbuttoning the remaining buttons. "I am so inclined but have found the
necessity of a facade."  "Keep your dictionary closed, sister, and talk
straight talk."  "I like being honest even when it gets me into trouble
unless I think it might be too disadvantageous.  When I was a little
girl I witnessed a beheading of a Turk in Istanbul."  "Turk?"  "In
TurkeyNthe countryEnot the bird.  Everyone was clapping and my parents
were glad that justice had happened.  I knew that justice was savagery
and that crying about it wouldnOt accomplish anything but just get
people to loathe me.  Loathe meaning hate and not love.  I decided that
if I asked questions and looked like I wasnOt bothered by it all I would
be left alone with my sensitivities intact.  I did my consummate
performance to look like an adult and appear as if I did not need them."
"What would they have done to you if you cried?" "As IOve said, they
would have looked on it as weakness and they would have despised it.  I
didnOt want to be hated or loved.  I wanted to be a graduate from
childhood that could only come from an adult action of pompous stoicism.
You donOt understand?"  "Why did you become a whore with such fancy-
dancy words?"  "I wanted to know fancy-dancy words but I didnOt want to
get a job using fancy-dancy words.  I didnOt want to be one of those
professional bureaucratic slaves.  I decided that everything was a form
of prostitution and that bodily prostitution was quicker than mental
prostitution and with bodily prostitution I would never have to
relinquish my thoughts.  Does that make sense?"  "Weird, Sister, but go
on."  " I didnOt want to be there behind a desk working for an agency
that represented societal interests.  If all of societyOs institutions
were a refined form of atavistic savagery I didnOt want to be there
contributing to any bit of it: writing documentation, red tape,
bureaucracy of this and that sucking up my ideas."  "You are one heavy,
twisted sister."  "YouOve got that right Candyman."  The two began to
kiss to et cetera.

Candyman, to his own astonishment and hers, got a second erection a
minute after their intimacies were completed; and so Gabriele went to
the car for her sketchbook, and drew him nude.  A few minutes after she
was done she was again in a confused state of not knowing if she had
flown to Ithaca or had driven there. She was fading fast. All earlier
utterances that she had to make to Candyman, where she had to pull down
some ethereal sense of self in order to have some coherent conversation
and some degree of rationality behind her situation, had exhausted her
more than the sex act itself.   She fell asleep.  And when she woke up
she smelled cooking and went into the kitchen. Candyman was frying bacon
in the skillet and she knew that he was thinking about their experience
together as he watched the hardening bacon shrink on a paper towel
bedding..  "Well, I guess I need to pay you, Candyman."  "Yeah, whatOd
we sayNforty so that you could have ten bucks for gas money."  "ThatOs
what was said."  "IOm wondering something there, Husky.  WhyOd you come
all this ways when you could get drugs anyplace."  "DidnOt know where to
go there, Candyman, and I needed to get out and think about things, you

She paid Candy Man his forty dollars N a discount price for the
sexual services she rendered unto him, and the two shook hands.  "Going
back to your son?"  "Oh, did I tell you about him?"  "Sure N you were
tellinO to me lots you donOt know nothinO about.  One time you were
spacing out and talkinO Obout your son and a Russian boy, packing and
coming here."  She remembered: shortly before she went to bed last
night, Nathaniel came into her room. She was packing at the time.   He
looked at her maliciously.

"You bored?" she asked.

"Maybe," he said.

"Do you miss Rick?" she asked.  He didnOt answer.  "Will you sleep
with Cat tonight?"

"I hate the smell of that dog."

"HmmEmaybe you should give a friend a call."

"I donOt have any.  I donOt like people and they donOt like me."

"I canOt believe that.  Is there no one at St. Michaels whom you
play with?"

"It isnOt called St. Michaels."

"Whatever.  Answer my question."

"There is a Russian kid who pesters me."

"Well, donOt look at it as pestering.  IOd say that since his
language is different than yours and the nuance of the meanings of words
would be different he might make a good friend.  I donOt know him but as
nerdy as he might be, his perspective of life would be slightly
different than an American and so you might learn about the world anew
through exchanging ideas with him.  Do the two of you do anything

"He plays in the same baseball team."

"WhatOs his name?"

"DonOt know.  It is too hard to remember."

"A Russian boy with an unmemorable name?"


"Do you have his telephone number?"

"No.  I want to know were you are going.."

"DonOt know.  I wonOt leave for anyplace far away.  I think IOll
go to Ithaca for a day or two and see a friend."


"No, not her."


"You donOt know him.  Candyman is his nickname."

"A boyfriend?"

"No.  He is a potential customer N maybe he will buy a painting."
She threw in some lies.  "IOll be back in a few days.  DonOt worry."

"IOm not worried about you," he said in an indifferent tone with a
sotto voce of disgust.

"When is your game?"


"What time?"


"You and Betty can take a taxi there; but youOll see me on the
bleachers when the balls start flying."

She remembered her promise because of the serendipitous ramblings
of Candyman; and vomiting once on the edge of the road, she journeyed
back to Albany.  Sick to her stomach and dazed when she arrived back at
her home, she went to sleep on the nearest couch for a half hour before
going out to buy some groceries.  She spent an hour or two of the
afternoon interminably lost in aisles of food.  She kept thinking about
Rick and how the two of them used to bump their carts into each other as
they raced through the aisles.  It depressed her to think that this
would never happen again, and yet she didnOt see why relationships
should end in such an all or nothing cessation as if differences in
outlook among changing beings meant a broken contract of quid pro quo.
Had their relationship been nothing but a bartering of services the
whole time.  She supposed that this was the concept of a relationship to
most people.

At this moment her life was a foolish quandary of being unable to
figure out if there was more salience in trying to reestablish family
ties or independent strivings at all cost. She filled her cart, took out
items, and then replaced them with others of different labels and
equivalent prices.  She couldnOt figure out how many people she should
be shopping for even though she had each personOs tastes in mind in
making selections.  The closer she got to the cash register the more
exacerbated were her doubts about buying most of her products, so before
she purchased anything she abandoned most of it in a vacant cart and
shoved it off once into the oblivion.  When she got to the trunk of her
car she had only one meager bag of groceries.  She thrust it into the
trunk, slammed down the lid of the trunk in vexation, and then buckled
herself into the coolness of the vinyl seat.  She passed a bridal
boutique many times in the car and then spontaneously parked in front of
the building that she had been rotating around. The saleswomen there
could not find happiness in dressing the strangely sullen woman with
monosyllabic mendacities of date and place for this celebratory
solemnization.  Under the lattice inside the store, staring at herself
in a tripartite mirror, she didnOt like the trains of the wedding
dresses she was trying on.  They were too short, florid to the point of
gaudy, or not as ornate as she thought they should be.  When she drove
down to the end of the drive at the junction of the house she noticed
that NathanielOs dog was the only one that was chained up on the side of
the house and that MichaelOs sailboat and motorcycle were conspicuously
missing. She wasnOt sure how she felt.  In her room she took off some
expensive, gaudy earrings and slipped out of her dress.  The closet was
now hers.  His clothes were missing.  Only the toes of her myriad shoes
were within this capsule confronting her naked feet.  Gracefully, with
the highest poise, she swaggered from room to room to counter an
inclination to stagger.  RickOs room was vacuous space making her life
unbearably vapid.  She mourned the loss of her other son before going to
the ball game.

She was spread out on a bleacher resting her eyes into the
intricate mosaic of the silhouette of leaves and taking a break from her
sketch (myriad tiny nude candymen having sex with various women, the
women having candymen babies in their arms, and each copulation and baby
scene wrapped in its own circle or monad; these monads making up total
planets, and ultimately the planets composing the cellular outline of a
long fanged beast that was the lonely universe) when the man with the
unmemorable name looked down upon her.

"Hello, Gabriele, do you remember me?"

Startled, she turned to him.  "Yes, but IOd never be able to say
your name."

He laughed.  No one outside of the immediate family would be able
to do that. What an intricate sketch!"

"Do you like art?"

"I love it."  He said it so simply with such sincerity that the
breath of his idea went up her nostrils titillating her with pleasure.
"After you finish your sketch I think you should paint it onto an
enormous canvas with a dismal red and black background."

"Yes, I like that idea, even if being so large it is never sold."

"Oh, it would fit over the staircase of a millionaireOs old home
perfectly. YouOll sell it in time."

"I was sitting here not knowing how to apply this thing really and was
becoming annoyed at myself on different levels."

"For what reason?"

"For lots of reasons:  a personal life that is shit, an idea I
wasnOt sure what to do with until you came along, annoyed at being
annoyed by this large crowd as if they need to be quiet for me."

Sang Huin had been on the bleachers at a stadium with his new
Pocket PC when a foreigner looked down upon him.

"Anyong Haseyo," said the man.

"English, please.  IOm an American still getting used to kimchee
with every meal."

The man chuckled. "So am I.  From what state?"

"The Midwest mostly but IOve been all over N born in Missouri but
my father had to travel a lot."

"You look a bit agitated."

"IOm trying to write on my book.  I guess I am annoyed at feeling

"About what?

"The noise, I guess.  I was trying to get away from noise. ThatOs
why I came here initially."

"To a ball game?"

"Strange, huh? Well the bleachers werenOt full when I came."

"It isnOt exactly a library.   So are you saying that your feelings
are mostly agitation or being agitated about being agitated?"

"The latter.  Have you ever felt that mood where you just want to
slap total strangers on their heads for not being introverts.  There are
just too many of them and none of them are doing anything constructive
with their time. And then you sit there in this crazy mood you begin to
blame them for being a bunch of mice breeding in a small cage and
causing everybody to walk on top of each other."

He laughed. "Well, nothing exactly like that but we all have weird
ideas going through our heads."

"ThatOs exactly right.  One minute a guy might see a woman in red
pass by and for some reason he doesnOt like her because she is wearing
red.  It is really pathetic.  It is like a given guy is built with a
primitive impulse to judge people instantly and to dislike someone for
not being more like himself lest they be of a different belligerent
tribe.  I imagine the Lees and the Parks in ancient Korean history hated
each other and back then they would be able to distinguish physical
traits that were the least little bit different and judge friend or foe

"Maybe back then there was a use for that type of thinking but now
belligerent ideas just come and go if we donOt try to catch them.  If
you just let them pass they wonOt define you."

"I like that.  Thanks.  Maybe it is from not knowing the Korean
language well enough.  I hear their babble and it sometimes sounds like
a drill in my eardrums."

The man laughed.  "You are cute."

"Thanks.  So are you."

"What do you do here?"

"Just teach English."

"What about you."

"Work for the Korean Herald."

Chapter Thirty-Four

Candymen copulating everywhere, their women and their offspring
rife, each family wrapped in its monad, and each monad making up the
celled outline of the lonely fervor of the monstrous universe as her
febrile imagination conceptualized it; and there she was defying her
wish to run away from an obsession to paint something seemingly
important that was as enzymes on the hours of her life.  She stood on a
small ladder slavishly painting on the gigantic canvas in her garage as
if this one obsessive idea could finally hold the elusive truth once and
for all on why she, her 6 billion contemporaries, and all previous
generations had bodies so easily worn away and existed so briefly within
this recycling of life and as to why they rotated about the sun like
hostages in a driverless bus that incessantly moved around the city
square without any purpose. As she stared at her creation she ruminated
that nature was so foolishly wasteful in formulating these tenuous
beings who spent a fourth or more of their lives trying to acquire
sufficient knowledge so that they could begin to think for themselves,
and thereafter most of their energies in copulatory obsessions so that
they could replicate new know-nothings. And yet if we were just cells in
this mad, growing universe, she thought, none of it mattered anyway.

But at 2:30 p.m. she took her usual respite from her creative
labors to meet the man with the unmemorable name at one of the less
bourgeois coffee shops, not within the Starbuck franchise. She knew that
in part she came here regularly not so much because she wanted to
understand a Russian man's mentality or friendship, but to summersault
from the diving board of another's ideas.  For it was by this that she
could free herself from lonely stagnation and the frustration of
attempting to find genius from within. This sense of being alive was
only possible when two or more were present (action being the body of
all things) and so she came here to spring into life that was only in
consort with another.  After sipping her marginally bourgeois coffee
gained from the exploitation of poor South American mountain farmers and
their factory worker counterparts, she showed him a slide that she had
taken of her inchoate work but then interrupted him as he tried to view
it against the brightest part of the shop's light. "Do you think Michael
knows you meet me here?" she asked sheepishly.  They had been meeting
there for a month without straying away from issues but now here she was
focusing on their friendship like a weak female who went under the label
of a woman.  She felt that her question was a petty one formed by those
who could not see themselves beyond their relationships and, embarrassed
by inclinations that lowered her to mere mortals, she had been barely
able to ask her question.

"Do you want him to not know?" he asked.

Her face cringed.  "You mean, would I care to keep him from
knowing this. Oh, I don't know." She shook her head indifferently and
then smiled.  "It isn't an issue for me -- just wondering."

"It's not, it isn't important for me either.  I'm nobody -- just
an investor.  I didn't even invest all that much. I only go to his
fitness center to lift weights.  I am -- how do you say -- one of his
more silent of silent partners; and I involve myself -- I don't involve
myself in his business or his personal business and hope he isn't
involving himself in mine. My life for now is a lot of books in my
graduate studies and not so many dates. "

"Good for you -- I mean for both things" she said.  "Women and
business might make a man look good on the outside but it's cancer on
the real human being inside. You don't need a woman."

He was sullen for a moment. "You and I are just friends anyway,"
he said irritably and avoided looking into her face.

"Yes, but there is no 'just.'  Friendship is the only thing that
has the possibility of being pure--people who enjoy being in each
other's company and admire each other without thinking about the
advantages and opportunities to be gained in a merger, people who aren't
needing the presence of some partner to get the addictive high of this
love rush, and all the rest of it."  She looked toward the front of the
coffee shop where a teenager was squeaking the soles of his tennis shoes
against the floor while he waited for his order.

"That's a god awful sound," she said.

"Do you think God is awful?" he asked.

"I said that the squeaking sound that guy is making is god awful-
'God awful' is a colloquial expression.  It just means very bad.  The
noise of those shoes is incessant."  She smiled awkwardly at her
irascibility, her innate peculiarities that weren't so pleasant and
difficult to part from.  "I'll turn the tables on you if I can.  Do you
think God is awful?"

"I do, if He exists!"

"You go to church."

"With my sister, brother-in-law, and their family. We go on
occasion.  We aren't believers. Catholic Mass is similar to Russian
Orthodox services and it makes my sister feel like she is back in St.

"Not Christian or atheist, but a devout church going non-believer."
She inadvertently mumbled the assessment of the man that she had meant
to be an internal summary.  She paused for a second and then decided to
disclose the rest. "And one with a penchant for investments despite
being one of the last vestiges of Russian communism."

He didn't grasp her concept since it was muddled in large
vocabulary that he did not understand; but he felt that he was being
criticized. "Do you not like something about me?"

"No, why would you think I'd feel that way?  I like the mix.
Still, let me be the Devil's advocate and ask what right you, a man,
have in judging this potential God."


"You said that you think God is awful if he exists.  Tell me, now
that you are in this one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and
justice for all and the rest of this gunk how you, a mortal, indict this
god.  I mean you are a myopic person as we all are so what right have
you or I to judge this bigger entity whom we presume to have created the
two of us and everything else.  Surely this God envisions a greater
picture? Am I making sense--what right has a little man in judging a God
who might understand the bigger picture on why things are the way that
they are.  Also, as a sociable animal, don't you feel the need to follow
the herd? In this country the herd eats from the Christianity trough--
the Bible is like ground up bone marrow and the least edible parts of
already decayed carcasses but these Americans devour it nonetheless.
Don't you want to follow this God unquestioningly and eat the fables
that are thrown in your trough?"

He guessed what she meant and laughed. "Not really. I am a human
being, a rational creature, a creature that looks at evidence and thinks
about it...I assess it."

"Yes, yes; I agree.  Only by turning off our intelligence do we
actually believe in such things."

"I don't understand.  Are you a believer or a non-believer?"

"Well, certainly a non-believer; but I don't adhere to anything
including non-believing. I let ideas whisk across me, weathering my
obdurate convictions.  What I am today is me now and what I am tomorrow
is me then.  There may be a God that is the cause of it all or some
large thing that a human brain can't conceptualize enough to peg it with
a label and if so I want an impression of the real one as much as I can
and not the anthropomorphic god that society is trying to install into
my head."

"I see," he said.

"Do you?"  She giggled.

He smiled and then sunk morosely within deep contemplation. "I was
quickly looking through a Newsweek at a newsstand while I came here --
sorry, while I was coming here. Let me start again.  While I was coming
here I glanced at a Newsweek."

"Bravo.  Finally, good grammar!," she bantered.

He smiled morosely. "The article said that in the Democratic
Republic of Congo a door of a cargo plane fell open.  The article said
that most of the soldiers and their families who were inside were-" He
could not think of the words so he used a gesture.

"Sucked out?" said Gabriele colloquially.

"Did you learn of it?"

She thought of it for a few seconds:  the consternation and yet
cognizant beings nonetheless understanding what was happening to them
and their families as they freefell into the abyss, the wailing and the
flailing of limbs, the sense of being a morsel swallowed into an
atmosphere that was so smothering in its vastness, the sense of complete
hopelessness, the horrific winds, the passing through layers of clouds
with the specious illusion of nets, falling concurrent with the rain,
each human being hopefully experiencing a heart attack or stroke before
the stroke of death, and the plops of red raindrops flying into the air
at impact.   She knew that the world had not been gently patted together
and shaped like a piece of clay.  It had been smelted in violence and
chance. This being so, so it was with an individual life. "How
horrible!" she gasped.  "No, I didn't read anything about it."  She
slowly lifted her face and resurrected her sunken eyes.  She even
feigned a smile.  "I am bad that way: I'd rather listen to classical
music and read a book than know the news.  Knowing how violent the world
is does violence to one's need to believe that life is essentially

"If God didn't care about those people why should I think that he
cares about me?"

"Absolutely.  I agree."  She tried to extricate herself from
morbid thoughts by altering back to a more frivolous topic. "Do you
agree that that squeaking is God awful!"

"I do. My nephew does that all the time, you know, squeaking his
tennis shoes.  You can scold him but he doesn't stop it. Squeaking
tennis shoes, playing with balls all day and most of the night, running
around -- I think motion gives him and all boys self-confidence."

"So this kid is squeaking -- "

"To prove to himself that he exists."

"Yes; but if a boy never stands still -- and this one would annoy
virtually anyone he encounters with feet like fingernails on a
blackboard -- he will never think beyond his own little movements in the
movements and changes of this world. Furthermore he'll never
conceptualize permanence and truth and his ideas will be myopic and
short term.  Even if there aren't solid Platonic ideas out in Never-
Never land and all ideas are just attempts at understanding what passes
through the senses, standing back and contemplating life at least allows
a person to think about the various perspectives of an issue before
making a decision.  It improves the ability to make good decisions. My
theory is that for every twenty minutes of inordinate movement that a
boy or a teenage boy carries out he should be put in shackles and
fetters in a closet for the other forty."

He smiled admiringly at her words despite not understanding many
of them.

She simplified her flurry of words. "Maybe movement gives a boy
self-confidence that he exists but unless he is put in chains and kept
in a closet half the day, he will think that there is nothing else
beyond movement."

"Is there?" he asked.

"I don't know," she confessed.

"Do you do that to your son -- put him in chains?" He chuckled.

"Coming soon," she kidded. "Aren't I right to contain males and
movement?" she nudged him with her fist and then tucked his hand into
her own.

"As our Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin says it -- if I can quote
what I memorized in an English translation, 'How smoothly, rapidly, and
freely the sleigh glides in the moonlight when you are with a friend and
when, warm and fresh beneath her sable fur, flushed and trembling, she
squeezes your hand.'"

"Lovely sweet talk but it won't help you.  You know what I want to
do? I want to put you in chains too. Come on."  She put their mugs into
his hands and led him to an outside table.  There, she had him put the
mugs down and led him into a luscious and verdant yard mixed with yellow
dandelions. Even though it was late autumn, the climate was arraying the
landscape with warm rains and the dandelions of April.  Seated on the
ground she tied together a makeshift flower bracelet that soon became

"And what is that supposed to do to me," he asked

"Maybe slow you down a bit. Nothing much since it is made from
flowers. It is just a reminder that there are flowers out there to be

"As Dostoevsky's character, Razumikhin says 'You can talk the
most mistaken rubbish to me and if it is your own, I will embrace it.
It is better to tell your own lies than somebody else's truth.'"

She laughed, put the back of her hand thoughtfully under her chin,
and compressed her lips into a smile.  She felt rejuvenated in this
exchange of ideas that were as tangible, palpable, and succulent as
sucking on lemon drops. They left and walked into a nearby park where
the fountains splashed water into the air making a rainbow.

"Are you still planning to go back to St. Petersburg?" she asked.

"Yes, just for a couple months."

"Are you still planning to go back next week?"

"Actually, I changed the date to tomorrow."

"So soon?  Well, I'm sure you will be glad to see your family."

Yes, but I'll miss our times together.  I'll hurry back as
quickly as I can."

When she finally left the coffee shop she headed toward the nearest
Wal-Mart, the shopping oasis for the underdeveloped bourgeois. Within
this desert oasis she bought some sheets and, in an aisle for Halloween
products, a witch's hat and some green gunk from which to soil her face.
In the car she applied the paint and cut holes in one of the sheets.
When she drove up to the house, she honked on the horn repeatedly until
the boy finally came out of the house begrudgingly.

She rolled down the window. "Did you lock the door?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said, and got in the car lethargically.

"All of them?"

"All of them.  They're locked," he said petulantly.

"Do I need to check?"

"No, quit bothering me!" he said insolently.

"Poor Mr. Petulant--always doubted and examined in these unjust
inquisitions. Okay, I won't doubt you this time; but I must tell you
this: in the event that we are robbed I will hand you over to the man
with the unmemorable name with an unburdened conscience.  He has
connections with slave labor camps in Siberia from the way I understand

"I know that you don't understand anything.  You are lying. There
aren't any of these connections."

"Lying, never! Fibbing, maybe or maybe not.  How do you, Mr.
Petulant, know what I know?"

"How do you know that I don't know what you know?" he countered. It
was an old argument that she had excavated from one of the many
miscellaneous parables in the thickets of pages that comprised a Chinese
literature anthology; however, she had never radiated the enlightenment
of her findings onto him.  Such was the brilliance of an original
thought; and so her hope for him was restored.  Strangely, this argument
seemed like a means to a new dimension albeit a golden key to the
nihilistic abyss; and she was a radiating mommy for the fact that he had
coughed up such an instrument out of the static charge of one thought
banging against another one--the being incessantly comparing,
contrasting, and categorizing various thoughts silently inside itself.
"To think that Benjamin Franklin brought down lightning with a key and
Nathaniel has made a key out of lightening!" she thought facetiously.
She smiled and reprimanded him banteringly. "Well, Adagio, you didn't
tell me what you wanted to be or I would have bought a costume."

"I don't want to BE anything.  Trick or treating is for kids and I
don't want any of that stuff anymore."

"So, because you didn't make your request, all we have for you is a
tacky sheet.  You will be a ghost; and you see that I'm a witch--always
have been and always will be." She ignored his complaint.  She knew that
a ten year old stood on the back of his nine year old carcass and that a
being's development involved using all former selves of earlier ages as
steps toward these adult pleasures of lust, greed, movement, and
conquest.  She knew that condemning the innate discontent within her
son, society, or to some degree within herself seemed as mad and railing
ramblings of a madwoman and so she chose to have no reaction whatsoever.
As an artist she believed that her mission was to thread a new logical
relationship of old ideas or facts if not formulate new ideas
themselves, and to add some flash and color to the ordinary. Whether or
not she was marginally successful at altering perspectives, one thing
was certainly not within her power at all. She could never adjust the
base instincts of one's physiognomy.  All she could do with the latter
would be to accept it as if it were the third, dragging leg.  Cutting
off this limb, with its major artery, would be certain death if done to
another or society at large.  Base instincts were the guardians of the
species.  Selfishness to suck out the bone marrow of life, survive, and
fulfill one's pleasures were the means by which this species

"I just want to finish my video game."

"Your brain will do some serious rotting with much more of that
shoot and kill stuff. With this outing only your teeth will rot."

She was reminded of a few weeks ago when she had taken him to a
professional baseball game which Michael had promised to him before this
dissolution of family.  She barely managed to acquire tickets by
offering to pay exorbitant sums if the ticket office were able to get
them into a couple seats; and yet this Adagio, Nathaniel, this Mr.
Petulant, was saturnine the whole time.  "What's your problem?" she
asked as they were leaving the parking lot following the game.   "You
shouldn't be the one I go with.  You don't even like these games," he
said; and, true as it was, there was nothing for her to do but stuff the
remainder of the hot dog into her mouth and drive home.

She drove him into more affluent areas and took him from door to
door as if he were five years old, and as if she were trying to make
herself that age in the process.  She too had a plastic jack-o-lantern
pail.  She too got chocolate thrust into the pile within her pail.
Experiences accompanying him in a childhood that had been robbed from
her, for whatever embarrassment they caused him, were a million times
better than being a mother waiting on the sidelines with vicarious
yearnings.  The quest of a chocolate mendicant, a ghoulish monk seeking
alms, was leading her into the simple pleasures that were the foundation
for appreciating life, from disengaging out of one's limited
perspectives and hopeful adult futuristic conquests, and to be in awe of
the entity.  And yet with each new house his aversion to say, "Trick or
treat?" increased as with his tacit animadversion of his mother.  House
after house there were chocolate benefactors and benefactresses with
similar wisecracks: "You are a little big and old to be trick or
treating, aren't you -- I can't see how old your ghost friend is but he
seems a bit tall too." As much as he tried to suppress it, his loathing
of her was ready to disgorge from his mouth like vomit.

An hour into this childish foray, she still did not have any
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and so she told him that with ten or fifteen
more houses there would be a probability of acquiring her favorite brand
of candy.  Somewhere after the fifth extra house he felt a full
abhorrence for the witch who put spells on men, drank their pee, had
men, lost men, made a family by abandoning him when she went off to
Europe, lost a family, found him an irritant when she was acting the
part of the artist, suffocated him in embarrassments like this when she
was trying to act the part of a mother, who never connected him to
outside relatives like his real father or Peggy, and when he finally had
some semblance of a father she caused his departure.

"I'm sick of you," he said.  I want to go someplace else but I
don't have an aunt, an uncle, or anybody to go to. Nobody cares about

"What is your problem?" she asked.

"You taking me to trick or treating like I am six years old is
pathetic. That's my problem.  Pull it over. I'm getting out and walking

"Christ, why can't you just be happy?"

"Don't take the Lord's name in vain," he said.

"Don't bore me in Michaelish babble," she told him.

"I want to go see Aunt Peggy."

"Go then," she told him.  "She's in Kansas.  The walk should be
good for you.  Be careful not to take the detour to Timbuktu."  She
pulled off the side of the road and let him out; waited in dismay for a
while as he went some blocks within a premature bout of independence;
and then stalked him for another six blocks despite the fact that he was
trying to make himself stealth through the yards of homeowners.  At
last, tiring, he got inside the car.  She laughed hysterically, slipped
a wad of chewing tobacco into her mouth, and continued on her quest for
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Despite genuinely believing that his sullen hatred toward her
would go on forever in obdurate wordlessness, the need to dig himself
out of the coffin and dirt of silence exhumed him. "I want to go see
Aunt Peggy," he said in an exasperated monotone.

"Well, you see her every time you open those Christmas cards of
hers and those scary photographs of her fall from her flowery notes of
love as well as all those exotic European stamps and paper currency from
her trips here and there."

"I never meet her.  She wants to meet me and yet I never meet her."

"We live kind of far away."

"You have money.  I want you to put me on an airplane and fly me to

"I don't have much money anymore.  I won't until I sell some
paintings; but you are a child.  What do you know of any of that?  Your
concerns are keeping a kite sailing in the breeze. What do you know of
finances and paying bills?  What do you care about it?"

"I want to go there for Thanksgiving."

"You, my dear, are free to want whatever you please but getting it
is another matter."

He fell into his morose ruminations.  "What about my father?"

"I wouldn't know anything of him." It was a preposterous claim; and
to think that such an easily scaled wall would stop the besiegement was
even more absurd. Quickly recognizing her underestimate she fortified
the wall.  "Some cowboy intellectual who mounted me or I mounted him one
time. I don't remember which.  I don't remember anything about him."


"Sex.  Do you understand what sex is?"

"Of course."

"You know only the word--you can't define it and have yet to
experience it."

"I know more than the word--a guy wanting some fun from rubbing
his smelly penis against somebody else's naked body--white liquid comes

She was surprised to hear such a perfectly barbaric definition
that few adults would care to espouse and she looked on him admiringly.
"Did one of your friends say that?"

"Yes," he lied.

"Out of the mouths of babes," she said.  "Come on.  Just cheer up
and let's enjoy our time together."

"Where are you going?" he demanded.

"I don't know.  I'm just looking at houses.  If there is one shaped
like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup let me know and we'll go inside."

As she began to hum a tune on the radio random ideas pillaged
through her perspectives like unwanted guests her belongings: she
wondered why it had so far been a futile prospect to get her son to
befriend the boy with the unmemorable name; she thought that since both
boys were champion sneaker squeakers little else was needed beyond
imagination and good will for children to declare friendship; she
pondered how despite the disposition of Mr. Petulant and the forthcoming
departure of the man with the unmemorable name, she was still glowing
from her time in the coffee shop; how her painting needed some feral red
brush strokes to increase its beauty and complexity;  how each night her
exalted ideas imploded to recurrent nightly dreams of Candyman riding in
the white silk of her bare skin; how her recurrent dreams of Candyman
were not only of his physical touch but ones in which  he made her
perceptions coruscate in the gleam of moonlight;  mornings wondering
whether the real truth of her life was just those meager sordid
yearnings for sexual intimacies; that potential conclusion that
intellectualism was nothing but one's own pretentious wish to appear to
herself as more than motion and rampageous  sexual urgings,  hatreds,
and fears that were vital to the survival of the species --  this all
flitted through her mind a second before she struggled to regain control
of her car.

Nathaniel's hands were grasping the steering wheel and there she
was trying to counter this jerk of the car to the right and contend
against his Freudian death wish. The memories of the many versions of
Nathaniel at various ages fleeted through her mind. What he was doing
now was clear.  Why he was doing it was unfathomable in her
consternation. A couple of seconds later the car darted over a
triangular cement slab and onto a yield sign. Like the car beaten down
in inertia, they were as sedentary as death and as inanimate as rocks.
They stayed this way for half a moment and then, when meaning to ask him
if he was all right, she reached over and slammed him hard on his face
with one of her strong German polar bear paws and his head slammed
against the door. He took the knock with tacit defiance and locked in
whatever whimpering existed within. It was one of his last Halloweens as
a boy and perhaps his last time dressed for trick or treat and it had
come to this.

With the car towed off to the mechanic, she hated him for a week
and then it slowly abated, lost and tangled within new neurons, new
electronic circuits with thoughts successfully attempting to understand
his bitterness, and with new emphasis to forgive and forget.   But he,
on the other hand, hated her for her 7 days of cold Antarctic ponderings
at the dining room table and in her director's chair. Betty wouldn't
even talk to him by the orders of General Sangfroid and, finding it hard
to swallow food or understand anything on the television beside images
running amuck, he hated his mother with incremental emphasis and
duration.  Knowing this, she began to consider taking him to the airport
to send him away.

One cold day she was on the roof nailing a border for the wires of
Christmas lights to lean on securely. She was looking out over her acres
of land like a lonely Martha Stewart when she felt the need to stretch
her cramped legs.  She tried to call him on her cellular telephone to
have him come out and hold the ladder so that she could get down.  It
was only after the fourth time that he bothered to answer.  "Is Betty
busy cooking lunch?"

"Yeah, shit on a shingle."

"Could you ask her to come out and hold the ladder?"

"No, I couldn't.  I don't want my food burnt."

"You don't want your food burnt," she mocked.

"That's what she was hired for:  to keep my food from burning."

"Your food?"

"Yours too."

"Well, there's got to be a reason for me having your ass around so
you come out here and help me get down from here," she said.  But when
he finally came out and she looked down upon him she saw virulence in
his sunken eyes and she wondered if he could be trusted to hold the
ladder safely.  She wanted to call Betty to have her come out but she
knew that she would never pick up a telephone no matter how many times
it rang.

"Get Betty over here to hold the ladder."

"No, she's busy," he said.  She was surprised that he was impudent
enough to address her this way in person.

"Get her now!" she commanded.  "Get her and then, maybeEmaybe
I'll come down to get you your airline ticket to Kansas."

"You'll buy one?"

"It is already bought.  If you are eager to get rid of me I am
eager to get rid of you."

"Okay," he said happily.

"Sure," she said acrimoniously, "if that is what you want.  And if
that is what you want why should I put these lights up for you?"

"Yes, why do it when I don't care," he said.

"Well good we agree on something. I'll look forward to hearing the
results of the experiment: paradise or penitentiary in Kansas. Feel free
to email me through the process. Go on and get Betty." As he left she
knew that fear had motivated her to mention the plane ticket.  The
thought of cajoling a response from a child by appeasing him, and doing
it from a legitimate fear or, worse, perhaps a baseless one, appalled
her. Her will and her foundation of motherhood seemed to be collapsing.
She could no longer move him by her words any more than an old woman
could twist a lid off of a jar; and for the first time in her life she
was losing confidence in her own will.

Betty came out to her.

"You gotted all of the lights up there, Miss?"

"Yeah, well...enough. I guess too much, Hispanic Betty.  Todo las
luces para esto ano de navidad estara poco y yo tengo miedo que poco
esta desmasiado.  We will be the only people who will enjoy them.
Nathaniel is going to visit his aunt in a few days."

"Miss, we need to talk orita.   You pay for me for to have my own
apartment but I never go there. Nunca, nunca!  No tengo una vida.  I'm
illegal but I should not a slave.  There should more to my life than the
two of you.  Quiero permiso para un vacacion pagado para dos meses."

"Dos meses? Do I look mad? Dos semanas okay."

"And where you will get other slave?  There are many masters to be
gotted and not many slaves."  Gabriele thought about this crucial fact:
Indeed, there were many masters to be had but few slaves.  The idea
resonated off the inner walls of her brain.

"Y entonces tu volveres a nuestra hogar?"


"Okay, Hispanic Betty, stay until Christmas Eve and then you are
free as a bird hasta luego Febrero. 2 months of paid vacation. Here,
hold the ladder so that I can get down."

Soon Nathaniel, as well as the man with the unmemorable name, was
gone; and seeing the vacuous ruts that they had made in spinning away
from her she was reminded of the fact that the outside world was
changeable and that only weaklings and fools placed happiness on others.
And yet with Michael out of her life, and worse, Rick and Nathaniel who
were as much as lost to her now, her world was unsettled in a four-fold

She tried to avoid this feeling of loss for as long as she could.
She first coerced an interest in Russian literature to be interested in
something. She became fixated on drawing two sketches each morning and
two each evening as if the world required myriad more still lives of
apples in charcoal; and as if all that paper for the redundant work in
drawing her owls was justified by the infinite variety of their poses.
She suddenly became preoccupied with the pleasure and health of her
hound.  She felt that by feeding, walking, and washing it with more
responsibility and care she could extend the life of this big German
shepherd that they still called "Cat." She occupied herself with its
pleasure (an ice cube habitually given for it to munch on as she was
preparing breakfast, and an extra dog walk in the mid-afternoon). She
viewed her actions as a humane gesture as if from the first attempts to
domesticate the canine, securing the contentment or felicity of so many
temporary generations of dying beasts, had been a constructive use of
their masters' precious moments of life.

And yet as buried as she was in the rubble of family, where shoddy
and experimental construction was done without the mathematical formulas
of engineers, her hobbies were natural. They were diversions and she
knew that her diversions were a means to stop the pain.

Suffocating as she was in that rubble, she could have come alive
in a diminished form like all other creatures of chemosynthesis. Such
translucent beings never considered their unhappiness. They never
considered anything at all but just engaged in their habits, instincts,
preoccupation, and general movement. She was just beginning to get the
knack of avoiding her stray thoughts through Gin Rummy games, and
winning some of them too, but then Hispanic Betty also left. Gabriele
was surprised that she, an anti-social person who had mixed, gyrated,
and blended with such aversion, had become such mush.  She was a bit
like one of the herd.  She did not know fully what to do with herself or
who she was.  Most people might be that way indefinitely, but for her
the few days that this lasted was an appalling time.  It was made all
the worse by a temptation to find herself in her former boyfriend within
fantasies of him running toward her and sheltering her under his
umbrella and within one of his arms. Eager for sanity, she decided upon
another trip abroad.

At first she yearned to return to Buddhism and saffron or deep
dirt-orange robed monks to find an equilibrium and harmony within
herself.  She thought about going to Laos.  From photographs on the
Internet it looked like a little bit of Paris and a lot of dirt. She
believed that its simplicity would be to her liking. She was eager to
visit its communist museum and experience its photographs denouncing the
French and American imperialists (the former having recuperated from the
fever that caused delusions of grandeur, but the latter so delusional to
think that it was God that granted such dominion). But as she was
sitting in the travel agency ready to buy a ticket to Bangkok with the
expectation of taking the train to Nongkai, the sister city of Vientiane
Laos, she suddenly changed her mind and decided to buy an airline ticket
to Jakarta.

Arriving on a garuda (GA flight 543), she ensconced herself in a
hotel room long enough to take a shower for five minutes and look
presentable with an additional three.  Then she wandered streets like a
dog following novel scents, and quickly became elated in a puff of sound
and sight of hawkers stretching out into a street and causing the
traffic to squeeze through a narrow area that was still not annexed
under their squalid occupation.  In a little park where all areas of
grass were fenced off, near Pasaraya Grande, the shopping mall of he
truly affluent on Blok M, she sketched Moslem women wearing their Haji
or jilbab and glossed in beautiful makeup or not wearing headscarves and
makeup at all but allowed to toss long and beautiful hair.  She
contrasted the two and was fascinated by this attempt of Indonesian
society to allow women to be modern as long as they stayed demure, and
how an individual was dangled by the invisible gossamer strings of this
great puppeteer, society.  Maybe, she thought, when encountered anew
most cultural traits were romantically virtuous.  She also sketched
conservative men wearing their little oval shaped hats called kopias as
they went to a little mosque near the department store; but mostly she
sketched the throngs of park people whom she mingled with: guitar boys
who, when not on buses, practiced versions of their beggarly tunes in
the concrete park; a transsexual dancer with bizarre movements; the
umbrella shelterers who eagerly extended an aegis against celestial
darts; and that area seen with myriad candles from the nighttime hawkers
who sold their goods on blankets and sheets, each with its own candle.

Finally finding her way back to her hotel room, she was amused and
puzzled by this Christopher Columbus syndrome of adoration toward her
white flesh.  Had she been a superstar instead of an obscure artist, she
told herself, she would not have been accosted any more than this.
Having a good night's sleep, she woke ready to start it all again. On
buses that took her through the streets of Jakarta and in the company of
the musician/beggars who always boarded for a couple minutes, she was
impressed by how remarkably talented some of them were even though the
majority were as discordant as the howling of wolves.  She almost wished
that she were a talent scout to deliver the best of them from the
streets. Then it occurred to her that by choosing winners for prizes she
would be as vile as nature itself with its stance of survival of the
fittest. She saw a 5 and 6 year old brother and sister team--the girl
doing the most sensuous dance and then her brother turning off the tape
recorder and collecting the Rupiah after the dance.  In all, the
children might have collected a tiny 500 Rupiah in loose change no
differently than the guitar boys or the adult poetic orators who gave
renditions of their tragic lives to extort sympathy and a bit of loose
change.  8000 Rupiah were equivalent to a dollar and those who sold
drinks and pens could at least get this sum if assiduous for a period of

Over a period of weeks she became enamored of long back-alley
vegetable markets and ghettos of the night. Here, like in Thailand, it
seemed that those who had little resources were more interconnected and,
from their makeshift huts they would smile to just see the presence of
her makeshift life. And yet the Christopher Columbus syndrome was from a
discontent and an eagerness to pass out of one's own domain to that
archetype of American wealth and prowess that bedazzled the entire
denizens of the world no matter how much they hated the hegemony of the
American government and its people. Even here, she thought, children
probably yearned to grow out of their age and adults dreamed of business
empires, a corporate legacy from which to defy mortality. She knew that
in this sense it was probably no different than anyplace else for even
here discontent had to be in everything since all were creatures of
movement. These ghettoers in particular were spewed around bridges and
railroad tracks; and she boldly walked into their throngs in the
fullness of night, intrigued and enticed within the mysteries of life,
that black and white which were the rich hue of gray enlightenment. And,
were it not for the serendipitous beckoning of two hedonistic smiles,
she would have foolishly continued this way (potentially to a lethal end
as a mugged and raped female lying bludgeoned along the train tracks,
obscure in the thickets of an oblique area of weeds). This dual smiling
was too conspicuous. With one man's smile an ordinary woman might fall
prey but never with two of them; and she was tiers beyond the ordinary.

Self-declared as a female who was not a woman, Gabriele was a hard
block of ice to thaw. Even an exceptional Adonis with a coruscating and
speciously ingenuous smile did not have a chance with her. Only such an
Adonis as Michael, with a familiar and sweet son whom she had already
thought of fondly, had the potential to do the worst damage to her
pristine Antarctic surface; but such happenings were rare indeed. The
two strangers instantly made her circumspect and guarded by accosting
her with their sexual innuendos, which she did not even have to
understand in words.  The nuances were rife like the sounds of locusts
in the unfolding and draping blanket of night.  They were there to be
extrapolated in the intensity of lust-filled, hungry-hound looks and the
flippant glances and general levity of the two males toward each other.
And she knew that, as adept as she might be at defending herself with a
bit of judo and karate, that she could never ward off an army of
rapists. That being the case, she backed away to belong only to the day.

By day she was enamored by all of the mom-and-pop shops cobbled
together from wood and tin and the activity that was bustling around
them including the orange cockroach tricycle motor taxis a bit like
Thailand's tuc tucs.  She wanted to sink into the skin of those whom she
encountered and to know of their lives intimately.  The thought even
occurred to her that she should get her boy from the provincial rednecks
of Kansas and transform him with exposure to the world; and she would
have done just that had there not been such a cloying and bitter after-
taste to all this enlightenment amassing itself within her. It was a
sickeningly aggrandizing clump that was exacerbating itself within her
stomach; and it made her doubt the efficacy of the plan. It was getting
so large that she, who grazed on the weeds and fodder of stark reality
like a wild mare, was finding what she saw and her ruminations of it
virtually unbearable.

In Buddhism good actions perpetuated good outcomes for the giver
and motivated goodness in the receiver.  And yet as important as it was
for fools and the ignorant to believe in this replicating of virtue when
with each new century mankind moved the world closer to the abyss, the
reality was that they who had education and wealth gave both to their
children for that accrued competitive advantage, that the poor
floundered about trying to free themselves from a vortex, that suffering
did not propitiate any god, that the meek did not inherit anything, and
that they who were literal throwaways as children would sell themselves
as prostitutes, get AIDS, and die hideously in the streets, emaciated
incrementally like starving dogs.  She could see the prostitutes near
the National Monument with its hard rockish flame like the torch of the
Statue of Liberty.  She felt empathy for them as deep as the gods and it
was a torturous perspective indeed. When she saw a bare-breasted
homeless woman running down the sidewalk outside the monument, all
depraved from wandering around aimlessly, screaming and looking behind
her as if chased, Gabriele had a mixed reaction. In a small way, she saw
sanity in this defying of convention that a woman's boobs were erotic
armaments which, unless locked away in a blouse and a brassiere, would
thwart assiduous man to recidivistic patterns where his amorous
instincts would cause him to malinger from work. But there was nothing
sane in this woman's plight, and any thought suggesting that there was
such had been from a desire to fortify herself from the perspective that
the world was a bad place. She imagined her face on this woman and
wanted to abscond from Jakarta and life as a whole. She just wanted to
rest her head thoughtlessly against a man's chest.  She wanted to close
her eyes to the injustices and the inequality of life and to float in
the levity of dreams this way.  Lonely as she was, the net was pulling
her back home to America and New York State.

Left in the discontent of her own thoughts and finding the gift of
solitude equivalent with insanity, she sensed a major polarization of
her ideas and she knew that her own civil war was in the making. Two
opposing armies were deployed around the frontline under the scalp of
her own head, and each was trying to intimidate the other in the hope of
gaining a painless victory within the dominion of thoughts. Either from
consciousness absconding in a self-imposed exile in order to avoid
conflict, or from finding her true self usurped by impulses, willessly
she drove up to the home of Michael's parents as lovingly as a Moony.
She told them that she was Michael's girlfriend even though she could
have as easily meant the man with the unmemorable name. After requesting
to see Michael, she awkwardly offered the whole family her love even
though none had wished for it.  The sentiment had been contrived for the
purpose of breaking the cold silence but thinking onto it now with
chagrin she felt that this foolishness had surpassed any she had done in
the past. By her own estimation she hadn't been foolish since early
childhood and the consternation of it all seemed like being tortured in
the pits of hell. This torture lasted for a couple minutes and then she
didn't care about what others had thought or were now thinking about
her. Her life, she told herself, was her own and poised or plodding,
flying or floundering it was her own and no one was worthy of
scrutinizing it. She waited in their living room for nearly two hours
until he at last drove in.

"This woman wants to talk with you Michael," said his mother.

"I know.  You called me."

"She wouldn't leave.  I didn't want to call the police. I didn't
want a scene."

"You told me that," said Michael.  "That's fine. Can we have some

"Well -- " She then spoke fervently in Italian.

"That's not going to happen," he said in English and then switched
to Italian. Gabriele had already understood little words from the
entreaty of Michae'ls mother like "money" and "bad women" and could
extrapolate that mama was worried about a potential extortion and
blackmail of her baby.

"Whatever! I give up," said the exasperated woman in English and
then started to leave.

"I'm pleased to have met you," said Gabriele. "I hope that we can
become further acquainted and that I may one day secure your trust." Her
words were formal and archaic like a nineteenth century novel. If
subconsciously done to impress others, they impressed no one.  The woman
stared at her with that apathetic and supercilious hardness that they,
who identified wealth as a unique DNA of a more developed species,
always did.

When his mother had left the room he closed the door, and then
tried to camouflage the obdurate hardness of his apathetic eyes with a
contrived smile. Closure was nonetheless in those eyes. They were hard
and hallowed and they were permanently enclosed like tinctured and
opaque glass windows.  How, she remonstrated against herself, had she
debased herself by knocking on a door of this family home and why did
she stay here with him whose orbs were like slammed doors in one's face.
How was it that she continued to knock?  He smiled since there was every
chance that she could rectify herself in his eyes through discomfort and
contrition. Seated with this nemesis, he gained pleasure at the thought
that she had been allowed to squirm in a seat for over an hour the way
her son had waited and squirmed in the principal's office while dreading
the forthcoming   paddling.

"I tried to call you," said Gabriele, "but I think you were trying
to avoid me."

"Possibly," he said. He could have told her lies that his mobile
telephone was not functional or he could have prevaricated beyond the
emphatic use of perhaps. Instead, he had made a truthful statement. She
thought that she had to give him points for at least that; but as she
pondered this he pulled out a cigar, lit it, and blew the smoldering
flames into her face. That face turned red in anger and hate.  It just
bit a lower lip as an arm fanned away the smoke. These were hard
gestures that were in part flailing against the personal life sucking
her into its vortex of winds, and in part a protest of a man's insolence
toward this womanly weakness that he correctly presumed to ooze within
her. He saw hate in eyes harder than his own and finding not only them
erotic but also the breath that was trying to extricate itself from the
inhalation of smoke, he wanted to exercise against her will. He wanted
to use her as if she were the gravity and the bar by which he might do
pull-ups to claim masculine strength and virile complacency. He wanted
to toss her onto a mattress and rape her like any gentleman.

She feigned a smile unsuccessfully. It was a hateful smile of
hubris against him and all his male counterparts to whom a woman, and a
female to a lesser degree, supplicated herself. Even more, it was a
hateful distorted smile against herself who, no matter how hard she
tried, could not fully exit the trivial sphere of the personal domain
any more than an obese woman could easily leave her apartment.

"Monogamy, what a premier virtue, it is!" she thought sardonically.
This denunciation was a defense against her feelings of guilt over the
sexcapade with Candyman. She knew that it was so, for the guilt was
spraying out onto consciousness with that constancy of a fizz of
breakers on a beach.  She knew that it was so, for there was a feeling
disgorging within her that was a nasty flair of a warm shaken can of
beer oozing from between the closed tab.

She wasn't married or engaged to Michael--matter of fact, hating
her as she knew that he no doubt did, she wasn't in any type of
relationship with him unless that envisaged by an overactive imagination
off and spinning downhill like a rolling wheel of a flipped car-- and
yet society's prudish stipulation that a woman be faithful to the
partner she was with, or had been with, nonetheless had some sway of her
movement and thought as it had at previous times when they lived
together. Back then she would always try to restrain herself from those
cans of beer that preceded her chewing tobacco snacks in order to be
spared from his scowling, to continue to seem attractive to him, and to
appear less extreme and headstrong than what she really was. Such was
the influence of this mixing intimately: this blending of pathos and
petulance blurring boundaries; this nastiness of prudish society
inflicting one with guilt for pursuing more than the allotted share of
the love it had espoused; and these incessant compromises of herself in
order to keep a relationship with a man.

She was but a tiny shadow of original and independent thought that
was dwarfed and absorbed by the massive conservative shadow of America.
Her shadow was poised like the Statue of Liberty -- the liberty which
had inadvertently created her unorthodox perspectives, but hers was an
inconsequential adumbration. Americans were a provincial people as all
bullies of the world were provincial, and the thought of mixing with an
American (even one as Italian as Michael) seemed nasty indeed. The
nastiness of being here in his home came upon her like the sticky
wetness of a man's semen. The nastiness of debasing herself from
loneliness by coming here was to walk on the same spit and urine
evaporating pavements within the swaths of mankind.

Her ideas rambled on fervently. "The whole thing is a laugh. If
where one aims body fluids determines a relationship and love, this
sorry world is in for more gory times....How on Earth is being faithful
or not being faithful a measurement of this amorphous, multi-definable
emotion called 'love?' How is it, or lack of it, relevant to anything at
all? Hedonism causes one to accidentally fall into the obligations of
child rearing and a marriage certificate is society's glossy endorsement
of contained hedonism to perpetuate the species....Confinement is not
compassion; hunger for that other one to stop the pangs of loneliness is
no different than a hunger compelling one to eat...any hunger really--
hunger is just there to motivate one to clog an emptiness....Empty heads
need to be filled with empty people. Even if they are only speciously
tangible and as impermanent as gusts of wind, they need them like the
air they breathe....Mortal bits of dust feel more solid in a  family
unit.... And although I don't believe in being faithful as the
measurement of a caring relationship I can't see what I'd replace it
with.  I'm not even sold that love exists...I mean outside of compassion
and this nurturing-of-the-young thing, I think that this medley of
different selfish emotions hiding themselves under the guise of love
don't have anything good in them. And if I can't believe in the
measurement of love as being faithful or that the thing proposed for
measurement is lovely I might as well shoot for the moon by denouncing
relationships altogether. This adulteration of oneself in these
incessant compromises and mixing never enlarge a person. They mitigate a
being."  She was thinking about her tree planting days with particular
abhorrence, and hardly thought of the old duties of being a home
teacher, an errand wife/mom, and a wall decorator for Michael's school
since now, when assessed from a distance, they were trivial discomforts
by comparison. "Infatuations in fatuous humans foster the illusion that
great things can come from human coupling as if hitching can concoct the
Orient Express...Am I the only person who believes this way?  I am. It
is no wonder that most people I encounter think of me as a bitch....
Can't blame it on menstruation every day of the month. No, I take pride
in my bitchiness. I relish having such an accolade. No, I can't blame it
on a period every day of the month.... What am I doing here? Am I just
wanting to wear a white wedding dress with my tampon the way little
girls are conditioned to believe that marriage in a white dress is the
portal to an epiphany? This ceremony of holy matrimony is ludicrous as
if a god, if He were to exist, didn't have bigger things on his agenda
than to sanctify the act of disgorging liquids on this one
spouse....this crazy aiming of body fluids at this targeted spouse...Oh,
this monogamy is sickeningly unnatural! As if signing a name on a piece
of paper can contain or clean out the filth of a thousand daily
fantasies and instinctual hungers....And then there are all these
primitive jealousies to this pleasure bonding: monkey woman not wanting
to lose her hunter who brings her and the children their meat; and
monkey man needing to ensure that there is a female possession as loyal
as a domesticated hound to satisfy him on evenings when his erotic hunts
have eluded him, and that one who would not burden him with caring for
children not of his own genetic transfer."

He had gone into the kitchen to fix some coffee so, alone, her
ideas spun quickly on the axial of ruminations.

"Love, love--the means to everything! The things we are taught in
music television videos and Hollywood movies. And then we emulate them
in monkey see, monkey do....Okay, my perspective is strange but strange
things have half a chance of being right. At least it isn't the stuff of
idiotic masses. Am I such a libertine--I don't really think so--well,
probably not. I am just an old fashioned, conventional girl who believes
that sex only happens on a mattress of a bed and have never once used a
car's gearshift as a dill-dough--I cannot even spell the word."

For all her cynicism that long-term relationships were of individuals
who stymied and quelled their thoughts to live numbly with their
partners and took on joint tree growing activities to have something in
common with them, she did know that there were some happy marriages out
there. Such marriages were unions of individuals who sought to edify the
world meaningfully with their contributions and admired this trait in
their partners. They were more than ordinary but not as extraordinary or
extraordinarily peculiar in quite the way that she was. She felt that
she was without a similar peer in the world and that from some snowy
mountaintop closer to the sun she was peering onto the world and
deigning her thoughts upon those who were less peculiar than she was.
Her weirdness droned on: "For those less extraordinary/more than
ordinary couples who believe in their oxymoron of a happy monogamy, I
tell them it can only be had provided they do a bit of front seat/back
seat sexcrobatics in a car and some rape role playing once or twice each
week within the comforts of their bedrooms. Excitement allows for
longevity--it isn't the love of Buddha that the better-than-the-masses
(hereafter called the Betthams) are after, but excitement. They, the
Betthams, are no different than any of the wallowing pigs in that

Only briefly did it fleet through her mind how ludicrous it was for
the damaged monkey that she was to define love at all.  With not even a
residue of "real love" there to her observation early in life, these
speculations now were merely word play in her brain. They were the mere
friction of cold, solid sounds and the static of them slapping against
each other in their empty abstractions as she juggled them in her ennui
and rained her sour stoic perspective down on them like tears of knives.
To her she was a bored goddess making lightning and her unique take on
love was the rightful striking of Zeus.

Still there were doubts.  She did wonder whether the smudge of
light penetrating her consciousness was enlightenment or peering onto
the stars with damaged retinas. To be laconic, she wondered if her
judgment calls were merely the moody caprices of her imagination.  For
in Houston, that Houston of long ago with a Gabriele that was a spasm
then of myriad spasms in the lost dimensions of a changing life, hadn't
she seen a fellow student as small as a boy and as limp as a sack of
potatoes being picked up by his father, taken from his classroom at Rice
University, lowered into a wheelchair, pushed toward a vehicle, and then
driven off to the next classroom in a different part of the campus? She
had; and it was only from her own obdurate bitchinesss that she
concocted a barrier to keep herself from consciously recalling this
father's spending of money and time to enlighten the dying. It was love
in the best gesture mortals could do, and it went contrary to her
assumption that human society was a loveless "hell-hole" that was
beneath her.

Yearning to depart from the bathos of contemporary society for the
sublime colors of Titian, the circular idealism of Raphael, the ugly
angular and emaciated forms of El Greco in that complex inner intensity
that rendered beauty, the mysterious shaded faces of Caravaggio, and the
true internal lives captured in the words of Shakespeare and Hardy,
Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, Melville and James, Plato, Parmenides, and all
dead contemplatives, she snobbishly wished to remove herself from the
masses of men. Her contemporaries seemed to be moving like that loose
downward tire of a flipped car and she seemed to only favor the
stagnancy of deceased enlightenment. For a moment, she was as much as
wishing to die to be raptured into their thoughts, and they into hers,
the way a normal person yearned for shared physical and emotional
intimacies. Dying young might be preferable to decades of being pinned
into a stall hearing the shallow grunting of one of those male members
of the porcine herd. Isolation in Antarctica without seals and penguins
would be a hundred times better than that indelible connection of
producing for him more grunting piglets; however death was not rapture
but rupture.

"How is Rick?" she asked after he was seated and she had sipped a
bit of the coffee that he had prepared for them.

"The same.  Growing."

"And the dog?"

"Growing more quickly. He shits a lot, too. Thanks for asking.
What do you want?"

She smiled bashfully as if she were an errant child whose laziness
or mischievousness had been exposed. She noted the peculiarity of her
erroneous reaction: a fixated response that she had comported in
girlhood. Back then it had always preceded an impetus to be diligent so
that she might propitiate a teacher's wrath and regain favor with one of
those rare individuals whom she admired in her more credulous days. "I
hate how this ended," she suddenly confessed in womanly neediness.  "I
don't know why you just pulled out like that."

"Pulled out like what? I proposed and you said no, so that was it.
I decided I needed a wife who would be supportive and that you were
right all along: it wasn't you."

"I think I was supportive."

"Why would you think that? You were never interested in any of my
plans--at least not in the later stage of things. Maybe you just aren't
interested in the business aspects of life, although I at least thought
you were about selling those paintings of yours--at least at the
beginning of knowing you.  Maybe nobody changes. It is just what we know
of them at different stages of expressing themselves--that changes. Just
ideas of people at different stages...ideas changing."

She now felt that being here had not been such a mistake after all.
Even though she repudiated superstition in all of it derivative forms
from anthropomorphism to destined fate still she couldn't help but feel
that she was meant to be here hearing his profound utterances and
perceiving him anew.

"Yes, how can it be anything else? An individual is too large. So
what were these ideas of yours about me in my many stages?" She really
meant, " many stages as perceived by you in your stages" but she
cut it short.

"I don't know.  At the time I admired your ability to rise up in the
world...the business savvy to do that, and how people were interested in
your strangeness. Before that I thought of you as a caring mother and
before that -- "

"A disgusting whore?"

"No, not disgusting."

"Why not?"

"I liked it -- the thought of you with many men. I imagined the
smell of your skin afterwards ...I don't know. It was sexy."

"Hmm," she thought, "latent homosexuality. His river is not damned
for it flows both ways."  She spoke, "What am I now -- this sexy art mom
weirdo -- this idea of yours now at this stage?"

"I don't know that I have one. I don't know who you are now."

"No, you don't know who you are being without a woman all these
months. Men need women, you know." The words belied the womanly slime
oozing within her.  "They put on women. Just like you needing symbols of
importance as that attachZ case of yours, those flashing appointments in
that PDA of yours, and that cellular telephone of yours. If you did not
have money and things to flash at others how different would you be from
any naked Etruscan savage apart from not being dead and living in

" I don't need a damn thing," he said coldly.  "You are the one
who's here. You are the needy one." He laughed at her. She knew that to
him she looked foolish even though that time of the Turk's execution in
early girlhood had made her immune to the opinions of others.

"You're here," he repeated.

"So I am," she said in her cold hubris.

He blew his smoke into her face.  "Well, with the gender factor
alone no man and woman are interested in the same things nor are they
all that compatible. That's for sure." His voice drifted slowly on the
stream of smoke flowing from his mouth and from the effluvia of his
lackadaisical scorn. "But to make any type of relationship work -- even
the most pathetic -- neither of them can just stare at the walls day-in
and day-out. One has to be interested in something -- business, rearing
kids, teaching, arts and crafts stuff, something. I'd say it was me,
that you didn't care to live with me, and that's what made you so moody
and useless in a sense; but it wouldn't explain your unwillingness to
paint, would it? -- You who just sort of sit around claiming that you
are an artist all hours. I guess you can sell some of that stuff -- what
little you do so I guess somebody likes it. It is a shame that you don't
draw more still life.  Your artsiness was really beginning to have
something in it." He stopped for he knew that he had run over her with
maximum efficacy since gratuitous plowing through flesh and blood would
not make it any more contrite.

Knowing how a hurt, rejected, and emasculated ego sought to maim
others in speech, wisps of air, like a diffident eunuch brandishing a
butcher knife, she let him disgorge his acrimonious sound. What was it
to her? It was an amusing psychological study and only this. The petty
utterances he would try to use to inflict misery commensurate with a
rejected proposal intrigued her. He was no more dangerous than a child
running around in an Indian costume and brandishing his rubber blade.

"Go on. No need to be bashful. We can't work on problems if we are
ignorant of them."  She meant "Go on. No need to be civil, you hateful
bastard." But this would be repressed to a dream and there it would be
in the flames of enactment and reenactment until the combustion was

He continued. "Anyhow, you just looked bored all the time toward
everyone including your own son. We were your headaches; and I looked
like I was wasting my time with you."

The trivial bits and pieces of a personal life projected in
acrimonious speech were often expressions of anger toward that other one
whom these intense shared pleasures were dependent and the whole thing
disgusted her.  Cast from the two parties, the personal life was not
merely a mosaic of selfish inconsequentials of bad off-moments nor a
heavy shadow of two lighter shadows but, together, were the adumbration
of the entire scaffolding of a being: the contorted and disgusting
skeleton of instinctual drives to gain pleasure, to hate those who might
hinder pleasure, to hunt, to harm, to eat, and to possess. This was the
personal domain and as disgusted as she was with it, her disgust was not
as solid as she had wished it to be. It was weakened and attenuated by
the pleasure of having a significant other know insignificant things
about her like where she hung her bra. To have him know such things made
her feel a little less cryptic. She had scoffed at his proposal so it
was no wonder that his bitterness disgorged upon her. She understood
male pride and excused his caustic utterances.  "I think I put aside
myself for everyone," she said. "It was all new to me, you know, and it
took some adjusting. I've always been a rather independent being. Still
the family that we were was the only family I and Nat have had besides
each other.  I even went to your church, you know. How supportive did
you want me to be outside of becoming you?  As you say, no two people
are alike--not even if you were to meet some docile little Betty Crocker
Helen homemaker type with her certificates in cooking and ductility."

"Ductility? No woman could ever come as well prepared in big word
armament as you. You are one of a kind for sure."

She smiled. It was the first dubious compliment that he had extended
to her for so long.

" As for Mass, it is is important to Italian American families and
you only went when you were forced to go--those times that it was too
apparent that there were none of these headaches of yours and that
faking one at the last moment would have looked ridiculous." She
tightened her lips in consternation. His ignorance was that of the
droves of men who believed that migraines were feigned. Even if she were
to enlighten him there would be myriad others yet to step out of
themselves. She couldn't change them all. She told herself that
society's reaction to those like herself was no different than how the
government treated Gulf War veterans.  But in fact there was a major
difference: when it came to going to church, those headaches were really
feigned unless all unpleasant situations were headaches, which they were
in a sense.  He went on: "I wouldn't know. Maybe you did go once in a
while and maybe you did help me plant a tree or two.  Still that doesn't
exactly make or break a relationship, does it?" She would have reminded
him of their bedroom intimacies but she knew that he, a man, was already
thinking of that which he most revered; and by mentioning it she would
be opening herself up to a comment that one couldn't expect anything
else from a professional.  She nearly reminded him of those intimacies
anyway just to taunt a response from him and thus free the hubris that
she was barely able to contain within her.  "-- You know, there is no
point in going into any of this."

"I'm beginning to draw again.  I believe I'm painting some works
that will outdo anything I've accomplished before.  I feel so creative
now like I'm about ready to produce something that could be my magnum
opus.  Before, I was just going through a phase where I couldn't draw
and didn't know what I was all about.  It wasn't you.  It was me."

"I don't know that we are a good match, to tell you the truth."

"Why do people have to match?  Why can't they just love each other
and appreciate their differences?"  She said this while knowing that
finding a perfect match for herself might be impossible and that in her
present mood any man was better than none. Now with her youth waning she
knew that sexual liaisons with beautiful forms would become more and
more like hunting for mushrooms in an area with a worsening annual
rainfall.  "I don't know if you have a new girlfriend now but -- "

"I don't have one."

He blew more smoke into her face.  "So what are you wanting?"

"Let's do it now, Sweetheart.  Let's just get married -- no fancy,
pretentious stuff, just a quick run to the justice of the peace Emaybe
today or tomorrowEthe sooner the better."

They were married in the early afternoon and a day later he moved
many of his things back into her home. Since the wedding had been as
bland as she had requested it (a justice of the peace and a couple of
Michael's employees who acted the part of witnesses), she told herself
that a permanently delayed honeymoon would be a matchingly dull
complement. To her this honey and moon composed a word that was no
misnomer: it implied a bee addicted to a nectar-induced high and she
knew that even a minute of that unreality would have cloyed her sanity.
Being with that same man 24 hours a day at a Kentucky Derby, an
Indianapolis 500 or other non-Parmenidetian activity that was paradise
to the masses and vile to philosophers and contemplatives would have
caused her to grab the nearest Time or Newsweek as quickly as most women
reached for sanitary napkins. Still the human goddess who once dressed
Barbie dolls for imaginary weddings couldn't help but yearn for a
honeymoon all the same. She was mystified why Michael did not move
Rick's belongings with his own; and yet partly assuming that this would
happen after the honeymoon and partly from a desire to not know, she did
not ask. Then the saturnine groom took her to the airport to watch the
airplanes come and go.  They looked through the glass cages at these
volant pterosaurs with American Airlines branded on their skins. At
first she thought that he who was so parsimonious about the amount of
water that could flow from a tap had decided upon this watching of the
airplanes as the honeymoon but then he left and came back with something
worse than nothing: tickets to Little Rock, Arkansas.  She had no
luggage but he told her that they would pick up some clothes in the
capital city and she smiled.  She told him that it had been a long time
since she had flown in a plane as if Jakarta had been nothing but a

The first day after their arrival they took a small plane to
Bentonville, Arkansas and then walked through the Wal-Mart museum
witnessing different possessions of Sam Walton's humble beginnings and
listening to the story of his ambition to become a multimillionaire. She
disparaged her disparaging thoughts. She blocked the formulation of
negative ideas and smiled at each new exhibit.

"To think that he addressed the first consumer inquiries on a
manual typewriter like this," she said at the typewriter exhibit.

"Isn't that the truth," he told her.  "A man who in later life
could have bought a factory to manufacture the most sophisticated
supercomputers used by the government and here he was in younger days
pecking on that old thing."

They spent the second day of the honeymoon in a rented car going up
snowy, mountainous hills through forests of dangling icicles as thick as
stalactites and as lush as its lost verdant facade, traveling by the
most winding and treacherous roads until they were at last in Eureka
Springs, Arkansas.

On the third day of Christmas he gave to her the reverberating
cacophony of country music, torturing an already queasy stomach that had
just experienced car-sickness earlier that afternoon. From the front row
of the concert she managed to smile without wincing noticeably from this
howling through nostrils via song. The discomfort from her own
disingenuousness in maintaining this coerced smile was as reprehensible
as the sound; and yet it was nothing to her who had seen a decapitation
in early girlhood and spoke of it like an inquisitive little scholar.
The bombardment of senseless noise was the stuff migraines were made of;
although fortunately for her none ensued.

On the fourth day of Christmas they were at this new business "of
his." There was a ribbon cutting for this international gourmet
supermarket which would soon be replicated in Japan.  He showed her
through the aisles and pointed out every item on the shelves as if the
stuff one crammed down his or her gullet needed such elaboration.

On the fifth day it was Christmas and so they decided to travel
around the area of Eureka Springs.  They drove up and down the niveous
and tortuous hills in and out of the town.  Tree gazing from the more
scenic back roads was his truth beyond the corporeal greed and ambition
of financial enterprises (this world) and unempirical religion (the make
believe world), and she was pleased that he had it. As his woman, she
wanted to nurture a greater purpose in him. As a somewhat solipsistic
being she wanted to stake a purpose in being with him beyond more
intense pleasures of shared experiences which she knew were erroneously
pinned on mutable others instead of the constancy of self. During this
car-bound time she held her loose stomach successfully, stifling its
rebellion through the exertion of will. She again smiled: It was a
complaisant facade of any common soldier.

Then he took her to the town's shoddy replica of the statue of Jesus
that was meant to duplicate the one that stood over Rio de Janeiro.  The
diminished Christ didn't have the efficacy of the original since it
lacked omnipotent and sturdy immutability over the natural world and
beauty.  Still, with a hand pressed into his, she couldn't help but feel
that specious illusion of God being up there in the sky caring about the
ethical decisions of her little life.  Of course, it was all
conditioning: the warmth and strength of a man's hand being transmitted
into her own, the sun upon her skin, and, from them, a glazed, ethereal
staring at the statue as if it were radiating blessings upon her.

Side by side with her man in their warm winter coats, both like
little furry animals against the kneecaps of this stone or fiberglass
man-god, she did not mind succumbing to religious delusions.  She was
married now and all other suppositions and attempts to make her stance,
her sense of the world, were nothing. All ideas that went contrary to
his expectations were dust that her mind needed to sweep away. Marriage
was reality. It was the psychological and physiological completeness of
two people, and as such there was a necessity for compromise no
differently than the appetites of the body being catered to by the brain
that developed pleasure receptors to tolerate this incompatible
coexistence. She argued to herself that it was an incontrovertible truth
that a man's bedtime dominion transferred to all else. A woman, by
getting married, either gave her tacit approval of this natural
inclination or gained enjoyment from the ongoing challenge to minimize

An idea trespassed through the meadows of her mind that he had
taken her here to force upon her a spiritual awakening and to test her
obsequiousness to him and his god in action if not thought (she who,
when logic domineered over all else was a lone, frigid polar bear who
didn't even care that much for the sexual awakenings). Then another idea
encroached upon her. She wondered whether having been awakened so often
sexually had put her in a coma to all other forms of awakening.  She
disparaged the fleeting thought. It was a mere caprice, she argued, like
disliking a passing woman for wearing the color, pink, or wanting to
make love to all sailors for wearing their clean, white, and neatly
pressed uniforms. Heretofore such whims had not defined her despite the
harmony of her solitary meadow being continually littered in the blowing
of these deciduous scraps. Heretofore she had been able to find that
higher authority that willed to know a self outside of winds and blowing
rubbish; a self that would gain immediate and indelible awareness from
the cookie cutter of his or her experience, and only this.  Heretofore
she had been impervious to the intensity of the hot sandstorms of raw
emotion and the blizzards of refined emotion, thought.

But now all was different.  She, an American, had knocked off her
insular American shell (the little she had possessed) while in Jakarta.
She had gone there thinking, according to her culture, that Moslems were
extremists who hated Americans; but never believing the ideas that she
was brought up with or the ones spewing out of this invisible mouth,
society, she had disregarded the idiocy of fear and bias for the
splendor of reviving truth. There she had met a gentle people; there she
had been naked with easily torn skin; and there she had felt the hurt
and the injustice of the masses, compassion and enlightenment seeming a
great and insufferable travail. Then and now she needed to go to him in
the hope of forgetting life's injustices within the softness of his skin
massaging her own.

Since, subtly within her compromises, she was now emulating him for
an "understanding" of religion and was now beginning to reflect upon her
Aunt Peggy as a paragon of marital sustainability, somehow following the
herd seemed less reprehensible. A being was born, grew up to reproduce,
and then died.  How could she, the maverick that she might be, add more
purpose to the state of mankind than this? Could she be so supercilious
as to think that the common experiences of those normal or normal acting
people counted for nothing? These actions existed since the beginning of
time so who was she to disabuse pragmatic, time-tested ideas that were
passed down through the generations?

She maintained her glazed, ethereal stare at the statue; wanted to
rapture herself from discomfort equivalent to those pews in a chapel;
felt the mistake of being here with him bury her in the fragments of
herself like the rubble of the Afghan Buddha; and yet feigned a glowing
ember of yearning within this contrived display of contentment.  She
played the part well enough to believe it herself. She did not want to
upset him as she had before, for not only would it suggest to him that
he should not have married her but it would aver to herself her own
intransigence and a social ineptness that was of damaged whores and
spinsters.  She argued that marriage was a union built on incessant
compromise and flexibility and that she wanted to be as adroit at it as
she was in spitting chewing tobacco. She could have gone through a
ceremony of marrying herself as the more outlandish Dutch women did. She
could have rented out a large area for the ceremony and paid for a
lavish, catered banquet, a wedding dress, and confetti. The recurrent
idea of it was tantalizing. Even if marriage to oneself would lack some
sexual exhilaration it would be a singular form of epiphany. The
publicity would have been good for the sales of her art and there were
days, upon her return from Jakarta that she taunted herself with this
possibility as a viable way to keep herself from showing up onto the
doorstep at the home of Michael's parents.  But she ended up telling
herself that she wasn't Dutch enough for such libertine experiments.

And so she believed in a religious delusion that was no different
than all other delusional zealots. She believed the way one might well
believe that cavemen were devoured by dinosaurs, that Shirley McClain
was god as proven by having written it in a book, that out-of-body
experiences for near-deathors were proof that there was a soul, and that
people were actually napped by aliens into these fancy UFO space

In a cheap hotel room in Eureka Springs, they sat on a bed and
watched television. Sedentary as he was staring into the box, he was
animated in his mesmerized state. But for her, it almost seemed that he
and his television gained their animation from sapping away her energy.
Boredom was so enervating that it wouldn't have been preposterous to
think of one's energy being snatched and diverted elsewhere. Money,
ownership, tax loopholes, investments, televised games, tree planting,
and this, watching the Tonight Show, were the same recurrent life themes
of this man.

She sat there as listlessly as a catatonic. Images from the
television trodden here and there on the surface of her brain but the
earth underneath did not register the burden of these fleeting forms.
Looking at the cramped room, which exacerbated her discomfort, she tried
the best that she could to wrestle and pin to the floor her critical
thoughts. She was married now so surely she should try. Still, she
couldn't help but think that he was just an ordinary male in his
obsession with ownership, his unwavering interest in action or jokes in
a box, and his pursuit of other innocuous pleasures that became the man.
Furthermore, she couldn't help but think that he was parsimonious, like
now as evident by the cheap hotel room, and thriftless like in Rome, all
at the wrong times. But for a year now she accepted the inevitable
conclusion that showing to him her books on art or dragging him to
symphonies or exhibitions would never deliver him to urbane habits that
could be mutually shared. If he dabbled with the arts enough to attend
an exhibition it was as one of the rich who gained an enhanced status
from rubbing against its colors.  He did not gain it by being a patron
of artistic merit through a scholarship or foundation in his name or by
spending inordinate sums at art auctions (after all, as rich as his
family was, it was not as rich as this) but by copulating with an artist
and owning one in marriage.  And yet he was the person that he was, and,
within the little womanly weakness she possessed (this love/this
neediness that flared up in even females like her to entice breeding)
she half believed that true love was accepting him for better or for
worse because this was who he was.  She no longer believed that changing
someone was love or that the environmental spark of love (in her case
going with him through art museums in Rome or witnessing his bold
reflection come into the bathroom of her hotel room and urinate as she
was applying makeup in front of a mirror) had much legitimacy. Love was
a commitment toward compromise and sacrifice.

So, while the thick cloud of his flatulent odor was beginning to
dissipate and a steak sauce commercial was interrupting the Tonight
Show, she became drowsy.  At one moment she heard him say, "That steak
sure looks good on the TV, doesn't it Honey?" and then in the next she
fell off a precipice into a vacuum of wind that made up dreams.   Like
women who when experiencing prenuptial jitters have nightmares of their
wedding ceremonies being interrupted by dark revelations, she dreamed
something similar to this belatedly.  She dreamed that she and Michael
were at a diner in the John F Kennedy International Airport. They were
getting married there before departing to Tokyo. Suddenly the airport
security guards, all of whom were Japanese, interrupted the ceremony,
whispered something to the potential groom, and gave Polaroid
photographs to the Catholic priest.  She wasn't sure what they said but
she did hear the words "airport bathroom graffiti" which made her
grimace not for the ignorance of those who were part of this consensus
(she didn't "give a flying fuck" about what they thought in the
slightest) but that these bereft hollow heads epitomized what the droves
of men would think. It didn't depress or upset her: it was just like
being a sole life form on Mars.  It was uncomfortable as hell but she
was quite used to it. MF, after being shown the photographs, asked the
priest if he should go through with a marriage to a woman who had drawn
such unregenerate images on the doors of the women's toilet but the
priest ignored his maudlin whining as if annoyed by any distraction that
would delay his inquisition. Gabriele could sense this priest's yearning
to put his fangs into her for she knew that the taste of blood was sweet
and that the blood of a unique being would be envisaged by such savages
as the sweetest yet. "Tell me, did you do this?" he asked the dark
veiled woman but he did not give her time to respond. "Who is this black
man that makes up the face and body of a savage God in this grotesque
and blasphemous mural?" demanded the priest.

Gabriele lifted the veil on her burka. "There isn't anything
depraved or unregenerate in it," she averred.  "I don't know who he is.
It is just my imagination." Her lie was phlegmatic. She would have
willingly given the truth but she wouldn't be goaded into it or humble
herself to such pernicious and puritanical Taleban. She wouldn't even
humble herself to God if she were to see him.  She and God would just
have to introduce themselves as two strangers, neither one better or
worse than the other.  "The larger image is whatever one wishes the
larger image to be, I suppose."

"What I want it to be?" mocked the priest acrimoniously.  So, I
suppose, if I want it to be the Virgin, Mary -- "

"Then it is Mary."

"Mary sure has a lot of naked images of black men with grotesquely
large genitalia running through her head," said the priest.

She smiled.  "Of course she does, as all women do. Have you never
heard of Masters and Johnson?  Surely Kinsey could not have eluded a
person of your type.  If I were to dig up the foundation under that
hairy grandfatherly veneer of yours who knows what I'd find."

"Aren't you smart?  To think that we could have naively put your
name in holy matrimony.  But do tell me, now that God is generously
revealing all of your perverted ideas, what you think is in my heart!"

"I wouldn't know. I don't read minds or hearts.  I imagine it is
the same stinky muck that is in all men's cravings. If you pay me money,
I wouldn't oppose letting you confess your sins to me. Now the price to
absolve sins and blowjobs are both the same: 500 dollars -- US, of
course.  With handsome Adonises, it is a packaged set but not with old
goats like you."

He shook his head. "To think that I would have married this fine
gentleman to such a blasphemous whore."

"Maybe I can read minds, hearts, or what-not. I'm reading big
breasted women there washing each other's bodies as they do onstage in
makeshift showers at Go-go bars in Bangkok; but only because you are too
scared of burning in hell for your homosexual inclinations. Rivers run
both ways, you know, but socialization on a teenager can alter how it
flows. For old goats like you, nobody built your dam when you were young
so now there is only cobbled will. Your will tries to redirect the flow
since.  You know that you cannot stop it entirely. Say 100 Haila
Gabrielas and pay me my money."

The priest shook his head at the foul fiend and turned away.
"Bangkok?" asked the priest. He was directing his question to Michael.

"She went there once," he told the priest. "She is always making
contrasts of Thailand to Western civilization."

"Did she meet this black man there?"

"Who knows?" said Michael.

Gabriele guffawed. "Why not address me?" she asked.

"Then answer for yourself, you disgusting tramp," said Michael.

"Maybe I did or didn't," she prevaricated.  "Maybe I don't need to
meet anyone or do anything.  I witness life. If I read something or see
something that is happening in my world (even if from a distance) it
touches me and I'm inspired by it.  I'm not afraid of it no matter what
it is."

"She's your betrothed," said the priest.  "What do you want done."

"Let His will be done. She hides her profanity, promiscuity, and
obscenities behind art.  She never admits anything," he whined
sobbingly. "I don't know what to do with her."

"Apple her?" asked the security guards.

"Apple her!" reiterated the priest.

The cooking staff, under their burkas, began to fire apples and
soon everyone within the room appled her skull.

"Why couldn't you have just drawn still-life or landscapes?" whined

"Join your Turkish friend from long ago!" shouted the Ayatollah-
garbed priest.

Gabriele was now lying on the floor with her forehead bleeding
profusely. Still she could eke out faint utterances and so she projected
her words like a song.  "You wouldn't have loved me if I hadn't been
somebody-- you thought it was a thrill to see one of whoredom reach
stardom.  It was like being in the Astrodome.  Like any carnal male, a
woman's glitter is to your liking--it is your pleasure dome but to me it
is not striking."

Then she dreamed that there was an anniversary party, which
Michael held to commemorate himself and the longevity of his schools and
stores. There, in her home on the day of the party, she noticed that
blonde-headed, frosty-pigmented man with the unmemorable name sitting
there in his own separate space within her living room. He had large,
thoughtful, eyes; and to her he was exotic and unpretentiously wholesome
like latent mushrooms in a vast field. He was silent in the noise; and
she loved this superhuman trait as she had loved it of her father--he
who used to part from her on the beach and pursue the silent wading of
his nothingness into the vastness of the entity, he who had been her
Parmenides despite having long ago abandoned her as one who had
indifferently tossed out grass seed. Having fought in war and having
foolishly devoted his life to contrived ideals of patriotism, these life
scatterings nonetheless made her father into the pensive German that he
was. She had silently abhorred him all these years for his neglect and
for severing her innocence in the coerced witnessing of the Turk's
execution; and yet everyday she was grateful to him. Not only had her
time in Turkey made her a snug albeit hurting occupant of self-
containment within Fort Gabriele but his hard high browed arrogance had
inspired the high stain glass windows of her facade from which she
observed all earthly creatures below. Also it was from him that these
sanguine characteristics had been hers.  As she looked over the guests
to that serene bit of nature within the smoke and voices, she saw
eccentric greatness within him. She knew that his philosophy was hers:
for those individuals who could accept silence and not cling to others
they would never be lost from themselves; and that whoever gained the
bliss that was there in solitude, descending within one's own fathoms
without inordinate hungers and movement, he or she would be one of the
savants who moved perception.  An insect moving on an ambulatory man in
ignorance of his movements; a moving universe that does not jolt the
self-centered movement of its ignorant beings--so the savants seemed not
to move while they carried all these insectual entities with them.

She dreamed that because of the potential inaccuracy of first
impressions, she was reluctant to instantly accept her own favorable
preliminary conclusions and yet the frosty man with the unmemorable name
seemed to her as so ingenuous. Within the cigarette smoke, the wine, and
the smiles, he was not eager to take his turn in the continual sallies
of one monkey-man attempting to conquer another one by being the
wittiest of all Neanderthals. He just smiled a contrived smile onto the
games that these barbarians played with each other. He smiled the way
all brilliant people had to do.

While she was stripping a head of lettuce he escaped to the
kitchen and got some fresh air on the balcony.  She pulled him in to
chop carrots.  She asked where he was from initially.  He told her that
he was from everywhere.  She probed this concept of an everywhere man in
German but then changed to Spanish.  In both languages he told her that
everywhere was a concept that wasn't necessarily linked to a place.
Later on in the evening when everyone had gone she found a note on top
of a stack of dishes that he had washed for her.  She looked at the
scribble of a telephone number. "Please, my Miss, call my mobile or send
me an SMS."  She did, and then they met at the zoo in front of the
spider monkeys.  From there they went to the ballet.   At the ballet he
spoke to her in Russian. She thought of it as the preferred world
language because it was nonsense to her.  Had it been sensible it no
doubt would have reflected a language of ordinary minds and so she
preferred languages of the nonsensical variety.

Then she dreamed that she and Michael had never been linked
together, and as such neither union nor separation with and from each
other was engraved indelibly upon either of their brains. As such, she
was an enlarging puddle being fed the rain. She was an innocent girl in
goulashes feeling the vibrations of ripples and stir caused by her feet,
and watching the ambulatory movements of birds feeding in the respites
of a shower. She was all of these birds scavenging in the dirt for their
prey for she herself had scavenged in demeaning mental and physical
prostitution before becoming one of the rare goddesses of men whose
novel ideas were a commodity.

The dream became one of a Gabriele who was an even younger girl.
Enthralled with the rain, the rainbow, and the reflections of branches
in the puddles, she was nonetheless distraught over not finding the
cracks of ant corridors in what was once the parched earth. It did not
occur to her that avalanche and drowning were the natural order imposed
by merciless creation against these superfluous breeders.  She kept
looking for the cracks within the dirt but it was to no avail.

Since she did not know many words, she didn't have any critical
judgments and, inept at linking words together, she was not thrust on
that one-way track of probable outcomes for the future. Still free from
being socialized and not having sexual drive that equated being with
others as appetites, she was more inclined to mourn a few days of not
climbing trees than someone's absence from her life. Cared for, she was
not fixated on survival so she stayed in the present moment where
smallness percolated through the orifices and oracles of the senses.
Scavenging on pink and yellow-stick legs like the birds, and flooded out
with stunned worms and insects, she was these things. She was a Piaget
child. Then she was as an adult form. The man with the unmemorable name
was posing nude for her paintings; and when she was ready to pack up the
canvas and paints one evening, he brooded charmingly. "When will I see
you again?" he asked like a pensive and hurt child at the thought of her
leaving him.

She felt irritated that he could ask such a question even if the
female within her coruscated within a man's neediness for a woman no
differently than it would within the light of flattery.

"When?" he asked again.

"When Russia becomes a member of NATO or returns into the Soviet

"Why don't you stay?"

"Why? It is a loaded question. Why?" and she kissed him and sucked
in his breath as  if it were needed more than her own. Then she pulled
away. She thought, "To never know how to marry oneself in ideas and
endeavors that bring new ideas into existence, to just claim another
person's rotting flesh to not wander around lost and vertiginous--no I'm
not one of the sorry herd!"

"You really won't stay?" he asked.

She was tempted. She thought about staying like a fat woman would
chocolate in a grocery store. She rejoiced in the fact that she did not
need to be any man's woman. Sex could be obtained without actually
living with someone. Matter of fact it could be obtained all alone and
she would have opted for it done in this solitary manner within her own
privacy if fantasies could be developed for oneself and a fuller
pleasure could be gained in masturbation.

"No, I'm afraid not," she replied. I want to think of things other
than you. Besides, I sleep better alone. After all, sleep is a solo

"Other men?"

"Probably," she chortled. I'll see you tomorrow," she said.

"Meet me at the zoo and then we will walk over here--Meet me in
front of the cage of the spider monkeys like before. Be prepared to know
every obscure zoo animal by its scientific jargon
in the Russian language," he told her.

And then the dream had her meeting him the next day near a baboons'
cage. She could tell that her profound buffoon had only feigned this
drowning in a sensitive abyss. There were no complaints, there was no
rehashing of insignificant past events, and no attempt to demand more
from her within a jealous male atavism that was instinct. They just
touched each other's bodies like children the feel of their
grandmothers' panty hose.

She woke up, startled to find herself with Michael in a strange bed.
She propped up her pillow and sat up. She thought about where she was
at: here in this poorly paved state of Arkansas a little south of the
middle of nowhere, the yodeling of bluegrass and country music
reverberating off the Ozark mountains.
Ensconced with her man in a blanket that had southern flowers on it, she
still felt cold; and part of the blanket was wrapped about her like a
southern damsel's dress. "Good lord," she thought as she looked at her
thick makeshift dress, "aren't I the Great Motel Lady, Belle Gaw-brE-
el."  She picked up her purse from the end table, took out some snuff,
and lodged it into a cheek. "Belle Gabriele," she mumbled aloud, "the
motel Belle."

"What'd you say?" he asked.

"Are you awake?" she prevaricated.

"Sort of," he said.  "What time is it?"


"You said something?"

"Huh? Oh yeah, it was nothing. Sorry, I guess I woke you--mumbling
aloud as I was like an old woman."

"Wake me in a half hour. I forgot to set my alarm."

"PLEASE wake me up, don't you mean?"

He chuckled sleepily on the border of wakefulness. "Don't go back
to sleep and forget." He rolled onto his side in a solitary departure,
and now it was just a back that was before her. It didn't even seem to
be his. It was just a man's back and it didn't have an owner.

She pushed back the curtains of the window and watched the heavy
traffic moving along a narrow stretch of road.  She knew that she was
also just one of the horde moving up and down the streets searching for
something while, in arrant foolishness or within august foibles,
claiming others and being claimed by them.

She deliberated on sleep and dreams, that mysterious enigma which
she had wondered about so often. It dawned on her that sleep was the
burning of subconscious fuel--it was
the burning of myriad crowding and conflicting whims within the confines
of the brain so that some type of civil existence might prevail.

She thought of her dream in which she waited for the Russian near
the monkeys. She wondered if she was like the specimens in Harlow's
monkey experiments. From a German upbringing, had she not become the
misfit monkey--the one that had been denied the touch of a mother or
surrogate mother and so always kept herself at a distance in the social
world. But she did not abuse her offspring like the misfit monkey. No,
she had given to her child adequate enough touch even though touch, in
her younger days had been so repugnant when imposed upon her without
payment. She took a shower and went to work like all other mental

It was her sixth day as a replacement for a cashier in the foreign
food store. The other cashier had been fired because of three
consecutive days in which she had attended to a sick child instead of
coming to work. Gabriele did this for 12 hours and then around 9:30 p.m.
as she began to close down her cash register in the habitual manner of
ringing up all sales Michael began to engage in small talk to pacify the
other cashiers. He thanked them for their hard work. He told them that
as indispensable as they were to the Arkansas mother company they were
always welcome to be with the sprawling newborn in Sapporo. He said that
the store in Sapporo would never shut down and it would eventually
become triple the size of this one.

After the store was closed he and Gabriele were driving back to the
hotel room when they stopped for a few minutes in a McDonald's Drive-
thru. There, waiting at the window for their Big Macs, Michael asked her
if she could mortgage her house and sell "that nude thing" in the garage
to "offset" the expenses of the new business. For some seconds she was
discomfited if not dumbfounded, and then she scowled at the thought of
having been dumb enough to marry him.

For a moment, the consternation was incommunicable.  All that she
could do was to turn her high head away from him, and allow her neck to
remain stiffly turned. She smiled contortedly in nominal pain before
releasing it in a guffaw. She faced him directly. His absurdity as a
being seemed to exist for her insolent jeering and only this.

"What are you laughing that way for?" he asked.  She stared into
his eyes rudely and laughed contemptuously at the absurd monkey that was
sitting next to her. She knew: every relationship was a self-interested
transaction. There was nothing new to her in this assessment.  She had
known it since early childhood when she found out that her aunt was
being paid by her parents, and that this was the impetus for the love
and generosity of letting her stay with this second family. Maybe
recently she had pretended to not know.  For a while there had been that
repudiation, that obfuscation of self, so that she might fit into a
wedding dress as well as marriage. But now she was back home within the
real perceptions of her brain.

She again deigned the hard plastic eyes of her stuffed polar bear
countenance down upon him. They glittered a hardness that was like those
of sapphires. "When is this Sapporo thing going to happen?" she
spitefully abraded the contumacious Earthling coldly.

"Well, soon," he said mildly. He feigned a diffident smile as if he
should not be asking for such a favor but would do it nonetheless.  She,
the new wife, took notice of this. He almost seemed contrite and she
wondered if his bashfulness was less contrived than what she might
suppose. Soon her insular hubris of indomitability began to thaw like
Arctic permafrost. Then he went on.  "There won't be any difficulty in
expediting this from what I see. I mean an agent could sell your
paintings.  One of my assistants could have power of attorney to go to
the bank and try to obtain a mortgage--I mean if you want to help in
that way.  I know it is a lot to ask. Of course it is your choice. The
way I see it we'll need that money as living expenses for a short while
until everything starts moving. The cost of living in Honshu is
notorious but it is worse on the northern Japanese islands like

"Well, I'll give it some thought. I'll decide when Nathaniel gets
back." She stressed "I'll decide" obdurately but she had in principle
made up her mind. She had in theory (there was nothing but theory in
this interrelating) decided that if she were to go with him she could
sell off her Jakarta paintings as well as the huge one in the garage but
this would be all. There was an institution called a bank and to her it
should not be a spouse no matter what self-interested gunk was naturally
in a man's calculative logic of advantageous maneuvers when proposing to
a woman -- in this case an interest free loan to which even the capital
amount might well be neglected; and in this case she had made the

"I was thinking that we might fly from Little Rock to San Francisco
and then over that way." His hand pointed to the McDonalds arch and she
smiled good-humoredly, careful not to insult the phlegmatic one by
laughing at him because he just might scowl at her. "I mean without
going back. Betty of course would pick up Nathaniel from the airport and
she could help take care of both boys at my sister's estate. It might be
better this way."

"Not see Nathaniel and Rick?" she roared incredulously.

"Good byes are messy," he said.

She thought for a moment. What did she know: Rick was well mannered
and Nathaniel was restive if not intractable. Maybe Michael with his
quick draw of the belt and his willingness to take his son on trips
abroad was a better parent. A caring albeit phlegmatic male
disciplinarian seemed to play the notes of fear and respect in male
children with a greater sense of harmony if obedience to adult might
were that one important anthem. She had to admit to herself that a
sudden departure wasn't nonsense for she was ready to listen to the
proposals of abandonment by a father of a well brought up boy when her
own experiments in child rearing seemed effete and unsuccessful. She did
not, for all her education, know anything much more than the average
parent and what little she knew was theoretical. Ideas of child
psychologists like Piaget were mere abstractions, premises like ghosts
without flesh. Maybe, she thought to herself, Nathaniel needed a
different influence since she was apparently not much of a role model.
Maybe pursuing a floundering maternal role for the sake of a child, who
would in a short space of years be engaged fully in instinctual and
hedonistic pursuits, was foolishly myopic at best.  At worst it might
stunt her from any form of enlightenment and she would appear foolishly
gauche and inept to herself. Was her reasoning so fallible? She knew
that it was. She wondered whether she was just trying to justify the
desire to jump on a tank with her mate and roll off into the sunset.
Maybe she would be running over her child no differently than her craven
and neglectful parents except that their rationale was to fulfill duties
whereas hers would be less definable.

"But Rick is with your parents."

"They got fed up with him. Now he is with my sis."

"Fed up with gentle Rick?"

"Kids are dirty."

"We should take them with us." Her thought was of rescuing her
favorite from such in-laws to her and laws to him.

"Honey, we can't afford them initially. Do you know how much
international schools cost?" She at last saw his point. She felt
apologetic. Maybe his reason for this marriage had not been to get her
money after all. "Besides," she thought, "whatever dilemma he might have
in obtaining liquid assets, I'm a pauper in contrast. Maybe there is
nothing to it at all but my own overactive imagination."  She looked at
him again. She saw the eyes of a man who yearned for money.  She saw the
eyes of Venus who would have said anything to woo Adonis, and she felt
that his love for her, if it existed, was not good.

"Go by yourself then.  I'll stay with the boys. When I sell what I
have painted -- I can pull in 20,000 more or less--I'll send it to you.
However, regarding the mortgage of my house you can get that out of your
thoughts! The day I'm expected to mortgage my house is the day I file
the divorce papers."  She smiled malevolently.

"Of course. I shouldn't have asked that.  Please come to Sapporo
with me. It might be your only time to actually live outside America."

He was putting the taste for new experiences back within her
palate, and to her the taste of it was uniquely tactile and sweet like a
wad of chewing tobacco. The possibility of going elsewhere potentially
out of the reach of America's long shadow made her soar as invincibly as
an archaeopteryx departing from a tyrannosaurus, if indeed these two
creatures were coeval.

Like a massive billowing wave of dark cloud overtaking the top
stories of a skyscraper, the prospect of opaque drama in unknown foreign
adventures animated her lofty imagination. She half believed that a time
in Hokkaido would send a beautiful mix of color rushing like a torrent
from her pallet. It would coruscate her in warm intimacy the way, to a
swimmer, the 5:30 sun appears to immerse itself whole in a pool of
water. America exported greed and violence in cinematography, had
sovereignty in technological exports, dictated world affairs, overthrew
leaders, craved for energy to give to its race horse economy despite its
havoc on the environment, and believed with certainty that God gave
hegemony in this superpower status to they who relentlessly pursued
gluttonous freedoms in a world of misery ridden masses. If she were to
live elsewhere experiencing other cultures fully she felt that the
inhabitants would be a "totally different fish;" and being exposed to a
different fish would be her mutation into something higher.

The idea kept reoccurring to her that children were temporary
objects in her domain but experiences of this kind were
transformational.  For so long she had wistful thoughts of departing
from America in a more permanent way than one could do as a mere
tourist.  She yearned to abscond from this country of sensationalized
serial killers, child abductors, murderers in school yards, random
shooters, Al Queida and Timothy McVeigh car bombers, and America's
obsession with those of fame and power who lusted for more and more
until plunging so fully in their passionate energies fell into jealous
fits, white color crimes, or murder related to that above. Already the
enemies were gathered outside the American gates and at any moment they
would storm the Bastille. A war with such poor masses would siphon away
the coffers of the US treasury to the point where the superpower status
would be gone. There would just be mountainous rubble of debt on the
great debtor country.

There came a day somewhere in the middle part of January when she
called the man with the unmemorable name from Arkansas. She did not tell
him of her marriage but she did tell him that Michael had asked her to
go to Japan with him. He told her to go. He said that one should always
use any opportunity that came along to be exposed to a new culture
although both of them knew that there was little else in the world but
America's capitalistic shadow and that little enlightenment could be
gained from any other source than stagnant words and pages of the books
written by the dead masters. He said this with such conviction that she
almost loved him for not holding onto her.

Tijuana, Mexico September 17, 2001

It would be 90 degrees later that day and she had come to do her
laundry earlier than usual. Her mind swished like her frothy socks that
foamed and compressed, were locked in and were often lost. Somewhere, on
one continent or another, something severed within her. She told herself
that she would not blame Atsushi Kato, and especially at this late date.
She tried not to think of this matter by watching the diving dances of
her laundry, but it was not at all helpful. She imagined two men's socks
of different colors and sizes intertwining within the fast movements of
her wash. No, she again reminded herself as if needing to reiterate a
truth so that feelings did not overtake her with their mendacities, Kato
was not the source of her disconnection. He had merely been a stock boy
for the foreign food store that was partially owned by her husband.
Perhaps he was that still. Certainly he was more than that role.

His face always smiled widely when he saw her or her husband. He
had an affinity for foreigners and she, in particular, needed his
friendship. His English was excellent; and he finally brought life to
their stagnation by getting them involved in an understanding of
Oriental antiquities.

The weather was inordinately cold, and the city was so large and
congested; but they nonetheless needed their outings, and he took them
to museums and Japanese theatres within the inner city of Sapporo. He
was so eager to use his English. He translated the signs under the
artifacts and became aware of the styles of Japanese calligraphy. When
they pelted snow from the soles of their shoes before entering the
theaters, he seemed grateful that such experiences were resuscitating
him from the continual repetition of counting and stocking inventory.
From these invitations to escort the couple he began to see a newness
within his ancient and isolated people on this one of myriad islands. He
said that he studied the English language and had kept it within himself
for so long; but it was really perceiving his race and culture anew that
seemed to revive him with a real personality. Michael was not inclined
to befriend a Buddhist this lifelessly innocuous and bereft of money and
status so she pushed on her husband's association with him, this
"subordinate. "  She asked Kato to accompany her husband in the barroom
business meetings. He would just be a human speck in these overcrowded
places. His shyness with those of his own race made them not pay
attention to him. He would understand the implications to the meetings
that her husband found opaque. She would not blame Kato. He might even
be doing Michael's laundry right now as she pursued her own, but he was
not her disconnection -- not really.

What did her disconnection matter at all in the scheme of things,
anyway?  When she asked this question she was not able to concoct a
truthful answer that was at all savory. In the scheme of things her
disconnection was just more worthless tripe as insignificant as a gum
wrapper blowing on a sidewalk. As intangible as a "state of mind" was,
she knew that for all its intricate and fascinating complexity it was
less significant to the outside world than a gum wrapper.

Thousands had lost their lives in the World Trade Center towers in
New York City just days earlier. No one could ever know the panic and
hopelessness that they felt at the travail of being cognizant and on
fire or seeing someone else who was ablaze and being unable to do
anything. If there were any continual evidence of those who had become a
gas it would be the sounds of their panicked utterances of love and
farewell or the light that made visible those horrified countenances
leaning their ears as hard as they could into their cellular telephones.
By this time, she supposed, those sights and sounds would be at the
edges of the Milky Way before moving further into deeper space, the gray
matter of this black god.  She still thought about September Eleventh
every few minutes: those repeating images of the two jets flying into
the skyscrapers and people jumping from the upper stories. What did her
disconnection matter to the gods, who if they existed at all, despised

She remembered: on the Eleventh (9-11) she sat on the bed in her
little room. A bowl of vegetable soup from her crockpot was on an end
table and a tofu taco was on a plate that was on her lap. She was just
about ready to put some food in her mouth when she used the remote
control to turn on the television. For a few moments she was incredulous
and just stared motionlessly aghast. Then she suddenly stood up from the
precipice of the mattress and rushed to the telephone to call Michael's
sister. The line was disconnected as it had been the past few times she
tried to call.  She tried email but again her letters to her son came
back to her.  Nathaniel ("Adagio") still had too much email clogged into
his Yahoo account--no doubt all the unopened letters she had emailed to
him from Sapporo.

Somewhere something had severed. Was it here in Tijuana, in Tokyo or
Hong Kong, Seoul or Sapporo, or a mezcla (mixture)? It was a gradual
harvest of disconnection invisibly sewn and its fulfillment placed in
her hands. She had accepted her divorce stunned and numb, but not
disbelieving. She had been there throughout his travels. Her mind had
been scrambled in different languages and her environment splintered
like Kanji, Hirigana, and Katakana.

She was lost then, and she was lost now. People were temporary
entities flitting around in her imagination as solid substance but it
had been an illusion. Why she had come to Tijuana was even more
difficult to isolate. It had less shape and size than even the divorce
of intimate parties. It was a shirt of a distorted form. Here, she could
more easily stretch the money that she had fully withdrawn from the
"grocery and household account" which Michael had put in her name at
Daiko Ginko (Daiko Bank). It was around 3000 dollars. Within Albany she
had her real money and property but she had not seriously thought about
those resources for nearly a year. The passbook and ATM were lost to her
now and she could never access those resources from here.

It was a most mortifying fact that upon telling her he had filed
for divorce and his reason for doing such that she just stood there so
numbly like a driver witnessing a falling bridge. She had not laughed or
accepted it with a smile, which would have been her typical reaction--a
reaction she had toward all absurd caprices of a human race that she
still believed was beneath her.  But within the daily work at managing
the store and fighting along with him to secure a profit, she had
unwittingly married him in her heart; and all those outings with Kato
sealed the three in work and pleasure. It was her first time of really
feeling as if she belonged to a group and the explosion of it wounded
her in shrapnel.

Upon entering the states she was too fragile and too mortified by
all that she had abandoned to go back to her son in New York State. She
spent a few days in Los Angeles and a few more in San Diego.  Then she
pushed the rotating gate in San Ysidro and found herself in Tijuana.
She had always wanted the chance to recall her college Spanish and to
somehow use it. American cities seemed so large and so full of violent
accosting figures; but she did not reason that this large south-of-the-
border city that she had chosen to reside in, which had its toddler days
as American military barrooms, had the crime level of LA and Chicago
combined. She didn't really have a reason for her inability to
acclimate. She told herself that Ithaca was too cold but Sapporo had
been colder yet. The bench at the zoo before the spider monkeys had been
her favorite spot in San Diego but the monkeys reminded her of the man
with the unmemorable name.

For a few moments she hypnotically watched her towels and clothes
through the window of the double-load machine. Washing clothes was a
dollar and sixty-five cents per load. Most of the customers paid in
dollars, but not all of them; so the machines needed special tokens to
fall into the slots. To her knowledge doing laundry here was the only
thing that was more expensive than in the states. A teenager was seated
in a laundry cart. Her hand leaned on the lever of the dryer and she
pulled and pushed herself in a gentle swinging movement as if it were a
hammock. Two children on roller skates created a roller derby for
themselves but they walked and stumbled more than they rolled and the
force in which they ran into people was nominal.

Just as she was glad that her ex-lover, Candyman, had not been
allowed into her body during one of her more fertile dates and had been
kept as syrup on her tongue, she was glad that throughout the time of
living together with Michael as lovers and then as husband and wife,
that no daughter or son was concieved (for once concieved the embryo
never would have been aborted since her principle of being humane would
have been the overriding consideration at the expense of all else). She
was also glad that she and her husband had not amassed any common
property within their nine months of marriage. She liked a
disconnection--a dismembering--that was made neatly in one quick motion
of the knife. She felt that it was good even when the knife was not

She thought of the salient, life-changing conversation that she
should have laughed off with the frivolity worthy of all human
considerations. At the door of their room in the lodge Michael said to
her, "Yesterday while we were snow skiing and Kato broke his foot, I
lifted it and touched him in front of you without wanting to hide
anything. Do you remember? You stood above us. You were wearing a cap
and your bangs were in your eyes; still I could see that you understood
fully. I knew that you had known all along. Can you really say that you
haven't known anything all these months?" He asked her this as if she
were the one who was culpable. He asked her this as if she were the one
who made him feel guilty by this contrived performance of consternation
and shattered innocence.

The stoic that she was, she had not created a dramatic or
melodramatic spectacle unless an ingenuous sense of confusion was a
spectacle. There, in the hallway outside their rooms at the lodge, he
condemned her, the victim.  That which preceded it had been Michael
rummaging through his pockets, handing her their key, and then
announcing that he would stay with Kato. Naturally, she had been
disconcerted; her feelings had been dominant and ineffable; and the
scenario of them talking like this with their friend on his crutches
gazing at them both in a horrified expression had been so surreal. Her
true self would have laughed and relinquished him.  She would have even
bought the gay couple a housewarming gift of his and her bathrobes
(maybe just his and his) with minimal bitterness that would have
animated her in light-hearted mischief-making.  Instead a bomb

Time moved by like a shell-shocked soldier and it dragged her along
as a war prisoner tripping recklessly over landmines. She was battered
in shrapnel but she knew that her wounds were figments of the
imagination since they were merely psychological ones.  With the right
idea she knew that she could wedge herself from the microcosm of being a
casualty of an imaginary war, escape from its hatch, and be herself once
again. If she were just to open the hatch she would be out of jealous
instincts and the pettiness of a personal life.

Whenever she got bored with reading Mexican newspapers and
memorizing new Spanish vocabulary she would go into San Diego and take
bus #9 from Broadway Avenue until she was in Old Town. Her favorite
building was Casa De Miguel Pedona y Maria Antonia Estudillo. Maybe it
had been restored long ago, but now it retained its tattered walls once
again and no refurbished items cluttered the dense emptiness. It was
time: empty and tattering. She felt less alone seeing it exhibit that,
which in an abstract way, was in her own heart. To her the dilapidated
structure was good.

She could easily enough replace a husband. When she was in Asia she
had often sent e-mail to some of those whom she met in chat rooms. There
were lonely males out there just as there were lonely females. She might
find an exceptionally attractive man with responsibility, status, and
initiative who would infatuate her and, if she were lucky, seem like a
comfortable friend. Perhaps they would have a rapport even if their
hobbies were different and the degree of seriousness that she gave her
art disconcerted the domineering male who could not understand the
independent fullness of self in ideas.  She could find a man just as she
could get rid of her old clothes and replace them with new ones.

She hadn't bought many new clothes for some time. Her budget
wouldn't permit such purchases now--not even here.  She could, however,
give some English classes and with a few hundred dollars each month she
could have been one of those common consumers in outdoor markets, the
real people. However, it all, seemed as if it were clutter (tangible
things like clothes and the intangible things of the mind like

Once, a musical group from Ecuador was playing in Old Town in front
of the historic buildings, where inside them everything was sold from
candles to homemade fudge. Three old ladies ran up to them before
leaving. They stood beside the musicians who were dressed in red and
blue ponchos so that someone could take their photographs with them.
They did not stay for here was proof that they had encountered another
culture in passing. The picture was solid: more solid than months of
experiences in a culture.

Two days before she left Sapparo, she spent hours in an exhausting
search for her son, Nathaniel, the best one could from a distant
continent.  She called Michael's sister, Janet, several times but that
line was disconnected. A couple of operators reaffirmed this fact. She
went through people search engines for her ex-sister-in-law whom she
never met but whom she believed to be keeping her son. Still these
attempts were futile.  She called the numbers of myriad businesses owned
by Michael's parents in the hope that the managers and directors there
might link her to these unlisted, affluent proprietors; but once she got
the directors or operational managers of these organizations on the
phone with trying effort, they would never disclose any information on
the owners who had been her in-laws. She used email search engines in
the hope that Nathaniel had a second account but all those individuals
with his name lived in states other than New York and Kansas. At last
she called her Aunt Peggy.

"Peggy, this is Gabriele.  How are you?"

"What?  Where have you been? We haven't been able to reach you for
nearly a year."

"I have been living in Japan but I'm coming back home soon."

"How long have you been over there?"

"For nine months or so."

"Doing what?"


"Is Nathaniel with you?"

"No." Gabriele was disappointed.

"You haven't contacted that boy in all this time?"

"No.  I've tried so many times but it gets me nowhere.  I was
hoping he would contact me on his own. Obviously he is not there with
you, but maybe he has given you Janet's number."


"It's a long story." This call was another dead end.

"He set fire to the house. We sent him back two weeks after he
came.  We don't want to see him back here again. I don't know where he
is at--Janet or whoever he is with.  No wonder he hates everybody with a
mother abandoning him."

"I didn't abandon him; but since when were you so worried about
condemning abandonment.  My parents just went on a working trip forever
and to you they are remarkable people; I was shipped off to you, and
your old fart of a husband."

"What did you call him?"

Gabriele laughed.  "Let's forget the past. It shapes us but doesn't
behead us, so to speak.  You clothed me, sheltered me, and gave me

"That's right.  We bothered with you when no one else would so how
dare you call your uncle a bad name. We loved you."

"Your love for me, your niece, was to approach me like a servant
girl. I dare because it is my telephone call at my expense and I'll call
anyone I want and remind him, her, or them that they are old farts if
they are indeed old farts."  Gabriele chuckled. So easily did she amuse
herself and how little did anyone else move her. "And if anyone tries to
finger my clit the way your husband did they should be happy to be
called old farts."

"Shut up!  Shut up now! Shut that wicked mouth! This is my
telephone and you talk to me respectfully or I'll hang up on you right
now. Your son hates you, you know.  Always talks of hating you everyday
-- sickening but probably for good reason; and we got the effects of
your unwed mothering experiment -- a kitchen in flames and one wall in
the living room --"

Gabriele hung up the phone and paced the floors like a mad woman.
She was infuriated and yet ecstatic to have at last treated her aunt to
the contempt of words. Virtually all other times had merely been cold
and supercilious looks. Still it was a hollow victory so she set about
destroying all of her photographs--those that she had with her and those
that she pulled out of a lock box at Daiko Ginko. She stripped away each
plastic sheet that contained them -- relating to Michael and Nathaniel
or not -- and threw them away. She did that for all but one. The
exception was a close-up of herself and her mother. Her mother's eyes
were sparkling and, within the middle-aged face, decades earlier could
be seen. Gabriele, who was three, was standing next to her near their
home in Bucyrus, Missouri. It was a link. It was a connection. It didn't
exist any longer but she couldn't release it any more than if she had
been an immortal proprietor of the heavens.

The washer began to spin and kick like a drowning animal caught and
fighting to get out. Its squeaking was wild with its vibration but in
tone alone it was similar to the calm, mechanical chirping sounds of
pedestrian streetlights in Sapporo.

She had a child and yet a whole realm of connectedness had escaped
her. There were only failed possibilities now. Nathaniel hated her
throughout most of the year before she "abandoned" him. She had felt it.
Now, he had all the reason in the world to hate her. She looked out to
the distant machines--the medley of Mexican people folding dry clothes;
putting wet ones in their carts, seated and bored; reading newspapers;
watching the television that beamed over their heads or falling into the
rhythms of dives that their clothes made in the dryers; and those
purchasing the tokens, soap, and bleach that they would put into their
washers. How human and divine they were! She felt cheered and soothed to
see their distinct faces. They wandered around lost, too. They yearned
for something more, as she did, if only an empty dryer. They yearned to
hear the morning buses that would excrete their dark toxins and take
them to their agendas. They yearned to see the morning sun and the
little barefoot boy in one of the distant colonias staring as the
calafia (mini-bus) and the water truck with its men yelling "El Vagon!"
moved up a gigantic hill in a pueblo of polvo and desert. They yearned
for the exchange of ideas that would pull them out of the sense of being
vanquished to the misery that was part of one's fate. But they were
also, in their own limited ways, capable of being Bin Ladens responsible
and exuberant about killing thousands of Americans. Maybe in just a
thousand angry looks toward gringos who purportedly had better lives
than themselves there might be something destructively vile in them.
They, like all perfidious males, no doubt followed feelings of love
(homosexual or heterosexual bliss) abandoning earlier partners who were
no longer exotic dopamine inducers.  Maybe, she thought, the vile was
inside herself.  If the English language had a word for hating men she
felt it now and she knew it was vile.

She tried the best that she could to pull out of herself but the
self needed to burn away both the past and the pain. Still she tried to
ameliorate these feelings in reason. "So, my Ex has a gay lover...So I
am dismissed...What of it?...The marriage wasn't real anyway; and
Michael does not belong less to Kato just because I once had a
signature on a marriage certificate." She couldn't see how anyone
belonged to anyone else, anyhow; and recalled that throughout most of
her life she had been glad it was that way. She tried to let the morning
grace her with its fullness of life. She thought of Tijuana's tamale and
hot chocolate vendors of early morning, the restaurant workers and the
newsstand operators, the pharmacy managers and the street salesmen. They
did not insatiably yearn for more to make themselves happy. They
accepted reality's mandate that there would be no aspirations, no
prosperity, and no urgency. There would just be standing alone seven
days a week allowing the stimulus of sights, sounds, and smells to fill
the senses and rescue the mind that tortured itself from the knowledge
that there was deterioration and death, brutality and natural disasters,
apathy and injustice, personal defects that were both mental and
physical, and yearnings for closeness and permanency in the midst of
void. She did not want to think of her husband--her ex-husband, the fact
that she did not feel as if she had a last name (Quest or Sangfroid no
longer suiting her, and "Bassete," the surname of MichaelOs family
before his legal change of it for himself, not doing anything for her
either), and that she was now ripped from the life of Kato and the
imagery of the Orient.

She put her clothes in a cart; and then following her feelings of
hunger, she pushed the cart in front of the row of stools that were near
a counter. She ordered a quesadilla and glanced at the cylindrical
twisting carcass on a spit that would be used for tacos. She listened to
the sizzling savagery of pieces of meat dying a second death within
their own grease and slow Mexican music that moved her like the blowing
fronds of palms.

Still her redundant thoughts reeled across the screen of her brain
like the repeated broadcasts of the two jets crashing into the towers.
She had gone with him to Japan on the assumption that the boys would
soon follow. She even made up her mind numerous times that she would
obtain them regardless of Michael's objections and put them in an
international school. She was planning to contact Rick's sister but the
months went by so fast. It wasn't much of an excuse.  She had to admit
that.  Had the two of them really neglected to contact the boys all this
time --she with hers and he with his? They had; for they wanted to find
a part of themselves not linked to them. For him it was the success of
this business enterprise and obviously to engage in the taunting of his
untapped homosexual fantasies toward these boyish Asians. Such was done
within this nice ostensible marriage and partnership with his wife.  And
for her it was the specious believability of that rush of energy that
was the suppliant groping of love and to find a less lonely version of
happiness in a group which together were humanity's greatest bondage.
Such abandonment was done under the ostensible label of "demonstrating a
creative and independent existence" to her son.

Seated at the counter she felt a contentedness in being near a
beautiful woman around her age. She even found a contentedness in
hearing the meat crackle as if behind the apparent truth of the
injustice of the powerful overtaking the less-abled in the slaughtering
of its life there was another truth that this was the design and essence
of life with a cryptic purpose that perhaps she would know with a little
bit more age and maturity.

The warmth of her mother's kitchen when she was a child as snow
pelted against the windows; the smell of bacon in the skillet; the smell
of coffee and the sight of her mother in a thin nightgown before the
stove while her father coughed away, distant and withdrawn behind a
newspaper--how beautiful her mother was in so many ways in that short
time together. Her eyes watered slightly, and then she had control and
the present moment.  She excoriated her maudlin, womanly tendencies and
worried that her refusal to fall apart in front of Michael was catching
up with her now.  Could the cold tacit hubris that she superciliously
blasted onto Michael a day after the shock dissipated have just been the
facade of a woman ready for a nervous breakdown?

She avoided such thoughts by telling the woman drinking coffee at
the counter some jovial comment of how at this corner of the room the
scent was a combination of soap and bleach blended with those of tortas
and tacos. It was an introductory comment of the environment similar to
parties experiencing it, and as she wished it, it invited a smile of
that one individual. Certainly a conversation beginning with "Hello; how
are you?" might die at the first moment of life. The woman responded
with a trivial comment that such smells might help in digesting the
barely digestible.

"I am a bit surprised by the amount of meat that is part of the
Mexican diet. One torta has more meat than I could think of eating for a
full month, although I have to admit I do have a grease addiction for
the quesadillas."  Aware that, in bits, her conversation was like an
American snob who could not stand anything other than her own quick,
thoughtless tripe of a culture, she wished that she had said something
that was different than this. Then a minute later she didn't care quite
as much.  She told herself that having spoken her partial gripe in
Spanish instead of English might have ameliorated any negative
interpretation of her critique to some degree.  As she was thinking this
she suddenly realized that she had just taken a glimpse of this woman's
larger breasts that bounced around in a V-neck shirt. She had done this
in a subconscious but still intentional manner the way Kato might in the
comparison of his penis size to that of his new husband whenever they
were side by side at urinals in a public bathroom. Then she looked down
at a plate with some leftover food on it from a previous customer. She
scooted it away and then did not look up for some moments.  She was
amused and a little embarrassed by her earlier action.  She tried to
hide her latent grin. Had her repugnance for men caused this?  She would
not be surprised if it were true: sexuality was just a river of energy
that would move in areas where it was less impeded.

A minute later she was still concerned that she had come across as
another snobbish American passing through one of the few cultures left
that, for the most part, retained its essence despite being so near the
superpower. She didn't give a damn what this stranger thought of her but
the last thing that Americans needed were more people hating them.

"What does the H.E. Stand for?" Gabriele continued on to rectify
what might have been a negative impression. She was making reference to
the initials on the woman's blouse.

"Hilda Estrella." The stranger said her last name like she was a
glamorous movie star.

"Are you a star?"

"In everything I do in my small way."

"In a family of stars or with a husband who is a star?"

"My husband is a fizzled firecracker with no bang.  It is his name
though. I robbed it from him. It should only belong to me. Don't you
think so?"  Gabriele laughed.


"No, Gringo," said Gabriele.

Hilda laughed. "Your Spanish is excellent, as it is my English,"
said the woman in the world language that had been tossed from American
hands out onto the denizens of the world like a net so as to pull all in
one direction.  She spoke in English because, although Gabriele's
Spanish was functional, her vocabulary was callow with a thick American

Gabriele introduced herself as Gabriela and the Mexican lady
introduced herself as da la de Estrella. The whole name
flashed before Gabriele like a Japanese bullet train (or Shinkansen).
She couldn't catch much of it.

"Mucho gusto," said Gabriela.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," said Hilda.

"You are the first person in T.J. to speak to me in English.

"They don't know it very well. Most of them are poor so they don't
go to universities none and English isn't taught so often in high
schools--not well and nobody wants to learn it none. They want to know
it and not know it. They don't want to lose their ways. Culture is
language and they don't want Spanish to collapse like a pi-ata. In their
ideas of things, the Gringos took away enough of their land--they don't
want the culture to go--out would go mariachi, bull fights, Juarez Day
with children in Indian feathers, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and
traditional Mexican ballads. In would come George Bush Jr. signs and the
American navy ships. It is a choice like the people in Paris, France."
Gabriele didn't think that there was much of a similarity between the
urbane Parisians and the dust city dwellers of Tijuana but what did she
know? There might be some truth to it so she kept her opinion sealed.

Hilda explained the education which allowed for her fluency in a
second language. Her father, a poorly paid public defender, didn't have
the money to send the youngest to college so he paid for her to study at
a language school.

"Did you resent your sister getting what you couldn't have?"

"No, I was very muy muy glad for her.  She felt more bad than I did
about it so she introduced me to her boss's bear friend--an old bear who
was a friend of her boss--how ever you say it.  That is another story.
Where did you study Spanish?" Gabriele just said that she had dabbled in
a few Spanish classes long ago in school but that she was now living
here to give the language a try.

"An American living in Tijuana, asked Hilda.

"Stranger things have rocked the planet, I'm sure," said Gabriele
coldly. She then ordered two quesadillas and two cokes for herself and
her friend.

"You Americans are lucky.  You can go here and there and stay as
long as you want-- wherever you dream. Most Americans just step into
Tijuana just to say they have been in Mexico but you dream about
studying here and do it.  It isn't much of a paradise--this place. Maybe
you have gone to other places."  Gabriele gave an abridged account of
the places where she had lived.

"To travel is good; but if it was me to do something as this I
think I would be dizzy to stay a long time in one place and then another
place to meet and to lose people."

"Strangely, it has made me dizzy; but not from the travels really.
Maybe a bit from the travels -- a combination of things. Before this I
never needed anyone. I had my own convictions, my own ways, and my own
mode of life.  When I was younger I removed men like ticks a lot of the
time, screwed and bit off their heads some of the time--not really but
metaphorically, and thought of them -- everybody really -- as unwanted
distractions on my studies and independence most of the time. I never
felt lost and lonely until I was married and was living in Japan."

"There isn't a more lonely thing than this to live together with
someone," commented Hilda.  She changed to Spanish. "People don't grow
together.  They grow apart if they are capable of any growth at all--
especially if they started out as strangers." To Gabriele nothing could
be said that was any truer. These ideas were identical to her own even
if hers were as yet kept confined into the cellar of her thoughts (a
place she restrained all ideas until they seemed more incontrovertible).
To hear these secret ideas that still had not dispersed widely in her
own brain come from someone else's mouth was startling.  So rarely did
Gabriele hear truth that she often imagined it as something that only
she conceptualized or fabricated. Her muddy puddles of cynicism were
evaporating under the light of the sun. Gabriele smiled her first real
smile in months.

Hilda elaborated that this friend of the sister's boss, Stranger X,
also from Guadalajara like her family, promised to her father that if
married to Hilda he would contribute to the family's household expenses
and pay for Hilda' s education. The father told him that if Hilda
consented so would he.

"It was a practical decision, really."

Gabriele nodded distastefully. The calculative and the irrational
were always in a woman's head when entertaining marriage. All people had
to prostitute themselves a little to make a living but, according to
Gabriele's assessment, women who contemplated marriage were complete
whores. She almost felt sorry for men if it were not for loathing them
so much.  Hilda was a whore for knowledge and so this got Gabriele's
approval. "Go on. I'm listening," said Gabriele.

Hilda told her that she had majored in health and physical fitness
at the community college. She graduated but any plans to teach went awry
in a pregnancy, a miscarriage, and then some years of housekeeping. But
when her husband lost interest in her for her infertility and inability
to carry a child when they had undergone such expense and effort to
conceive one through a fertility clinic, she stopped taking care of the
house and got a servant. This allowed her to teach aerobics.

Gabriele listened intensely while her eyes glanced at the cart of
wet clothes, which seemed to her like the great hills of Tijuana dirt
but in a medley of colors and fabrics.

"Why are you really living here in Tijuana? Why not Puerta Vallerta
or Mexico City?"  Hilda suddenly asked.

Gabriele began spacing her words into fragments and some of the
fragments contained space as if her mind were moving up and down those
hills across all of the distant colonias, the ocean, and into the past.
She said that for a few weeks, now, she had been staying in a room of a
house owned by a "nice woman." She just wanted to learn her Spanish here
and she wanted to learn of simplicity. "I thought moving here would
improve me somehow-- Suppose it hasn't," she prevaricated. Hilda, who
now doubted the sincerity of the conversation, was beginning to withdraw
her attention; so sensing this Gabriele confessed. "The truth is that
when I got married I lost myself to a wifely role N domesticated Betty
Crocker crap and being an unpaid cashier/assistant manager for my
husband's business. When I wasn't at my shift I was learning how to cook
regular western food since he hated Japanese food--sushi, mizu soup,
soba, and all that stuff.  Of course, washing his clothes and ironing
his shirts. In the meantime he was seeing someone--a
employee who was dear to us."  She chuckled.  "Not someone but the same
gender -- a man. He was seeing a man. After the divorce I came back to
the states. I didn't know where to go so I followed my own shadow and
came here."

Hilda looked at her empathetically.  She spoke softly. "So many
people come to this ugly place for one reason or another. Some work in
the American and Japanese factories. They often live in groups so they
can afford rent.  They earn 150 pesos each week, but what can they do?
They tell themselves that a job like this is better than none.  For
others Tijuana is a place to sell souvenirs to the American gringos.
They sell this and that on cardboard tables and they survive.  It is a
place for a young woman to hope that one of the American naval officers
that she sells herself to will actually want more than a...como se
dice... Anyhow, not being used for sex -- a real relationship. It is
where those lacking emotional resources can recover."

Gabriele caught the air before it came out of her mouth as rude
chortling.  "Lacking emotional resources" Eth she hadn't heard a more apt
and erroneous phrase to describe herself; but she liked how artfully
Hilda used such laconic sentences to show understanding, to make the two
women's experiences cognate, and to pull the conversation out of the
dead-end of the personal domain.

Gabriele smiled thoughtfully with her closed lips. She was pleased
that the serendipitous heat so early in the morning had carried her here
the way birds, without having to flap their wings, soared on waves of
solar energy that were refracted from the ground.   She now felt that
she was soaring away from the flares of tortured memories--memories that
if personified, seemed to think that she could somehow rescue them when
the only rescue to be had was their own burial. She was at last leaving
the pine trees and the snowy slopes where she had once skied with Kato
and her husband. She was razing that raised foot to its burial pit and
raising herself out of the inundations of yearning in the pools of
Michael's retinas. She was no longer drowning in the deprivations that
had fathered his unfulfilled pent-up yearnings or trapped in her own
eyes and ideas for witnessing what she didn't care to see and, at that
point, couldn't conclusively know. She was demolishing the ski lodge
where her former self stood in front of that door of what was their room
with mouth agape, key tightly clutched, and thoughts wandering lost here
and there but aggravating her with recurrent questions of where she
would "fit into the picture" should her husband's homosexual liaisons be
more than a temporary and belated experimentation.  For the first time
in so long she no longer felt the inclination to pull a ski cap down
over her face.

For Hilda sentiment had risen the previous year for warmth and
stability and she clung to her husband's side, the old ogre that he was.
She begged him to not leave each night and see this other woman or to
see her but to not treat their marriage with such total indifference and
contempt. If she had not loved him before she loved him desperately
then; for to be rejected by an ogre made her feel uglier than the one
rejecting her. She pontificated that love was a shared experience that
could not be dropped one rainy Sunday when it was apparent from the
first ten minutes of the televised soccer game who would be the winners,
clearing the way for daily habitual liaisons thereafter.

She told Gabriele that, while they were living together that last
year, she never knew who her husband saw. "It was probably a woman. I
don't know. A Mexican man, when he is horny and bored, would get off in
a hollow log but never his wife if she has disappointed him."

One night on the Guadalajara beltway, while she was returning to her
empty home with her bags of groceries, there among distant lights in
clusters like grounded stars, Hilda's headlights beamed on the sign
"Tijuana." She felt that second where the new could not be avoided and
that out there might be a little compassion toward her. She headed north
to Baja California and then got a job as an aerobics teacher for the
Municipal Sports and Cultural Center of Tijuana.

When their clothes were dry Gabriele invited Hilda to go to the
movies.  There in the darkness of the theatre she felt happy but
uncomfortably pinned in by the wistful desire to touch the leathery silk
of her friend's skin and this sense that to do so might bring on the
demise of the friendship. As strange as this yearning, the fear, and the
polarity of these opposites experienced together, was this peculiar
sensation of needing to be embraced in the cocoon of Hilda's arms
whereby she might, in this unconditional love of compassion and
understanding, more smoothly reconnect the ridged pieces of self that
she had cobbled together from a fragmented state early in life. She did
not know if clasping her hand would endanger the friendship so she sat
there and sweated with her hand in between both seats.  And yet,
strangely somewhere in the middle of the movie she coalesced
Gabrielishly.  She was restored in shared experience and understanding
and this was all that she required.

She had felt similar emotions of physical repugnance toward
Michael. Often, in their bed, with the enjoyment of feeling her body
again after sex as his motives, she shunned him like a picnic that was
infested with ants. The need for autonomy, hegemony, and harmony that
comprised self-containment became her.

Still, in the last moments of the movie she curled her hand on her
chin, smiled, and absorbed herself in light and sound presented as form.
She thought about how Hilda had waited around for her clothes to dry and
had helped her put them in the back of her car. The mystery of
possibilities and implications to subtle gestures dangled above her like
a toy of a musical crib.

Chapter Thirty-Five

When considering how marginally educated he was  ("bare-assed with
a tie within this professional world of masters and doctors" as the
words of such deliberations), Sang Huin would succumb to the undertow
and founder in the myriad oceanic fathoms of the lugubrious self. Each
of those times descending deep in this silent abyss, he would remember
those times of being in his parents' garage. There as a boy with his
broken bicycle, he, the maladroit, could only fumble a feigned semblance
of competence with the alien tools of his father's screwdriver and
wrench. Mixed in smells of oil stained concrete there would be a feeling
of ineptitude slowly trickling through him like the numbing poison of
hemlock.  Then there would come those excoriations of his father telling
him that his inability to fix things made him good for nothing and this
poison would dart through the ventricles of his heart and finish what
the subtleties of drowning in oily, nebulous despair could not
immediately do.  Now, as back then, he believed that the comments of him
being good for nothing were true even if now the negative judgment calls
were for a litany of other unrelated issues.

Lackadaisical or indifferent (the intense, wanton drifter never
even insouciant when going on rendezvous with his true decadent
cravings), the hours of his days were often extended no further than
going from one private lesson to another, to one gay sauna or another,
and then back home to Saeng Seob within a somewhat hidden malaise. Still
they were nexuses; and as fulsomely inconsequential as they might seem
to others if they were able to peer into his sordid domain and not be
repulsed by these orgies on tatami mats, still they were human
connections; and it was human connections that were a man's life raft
and dinghy when floating in the empty effluvia of self, water, space,
and time. For they who were endowed with the ability to see ideas, sense
an endeavor within them, and not only know a reality beyond the personal
domain but experience a personal genius in the mission of transferring
ideas to the world, they were their own buoyancy. And although Sang Huin
could see that truth he was not of such an excellent make. His destiny
would not be like those who were truly happy, they who knew felicity in
themselves and that the outside world was inconsequential.

In meaning-seeking respites no different than at any other time of
his Korean sojourn, he dabbled and danced with his Gabriele and, from
buses, taxis, and subways, read the news about the U.S.A. (now in the
thickets of guerrilla attacks from these liberated Iraqis who loathed
the American intruders and devastators).  He contemplated Americans'
free expression of violent inclinations in movies, books, and life --
violent inclinations clearly within the self or at least in himself, and
dwelled in a lonely neediness that was still motivating him to seek out
others in a neediness more akin to ductility than deference.

He got a part-time job as a sales representative at Rosemary
Cosmetics since his mind still yearned to give the amorphous blob
contained therein form, purpose, vocation, and meaning which still
eluded him.  His life in its quest for meaning was like the Bush
administration's groping for these weapons of mass destruction to
disprove the obvious: that Bush's hallucinated epiphany was similar to
the sun stroked and deranged Akhenaten. As this "Shawn" needed secular
meaning not in the material world, they needed to believe that the
bushes were God's executioners in Iraq and elsewhere.

Like all dirty bluish-white collared Koreans in search of a
vocation as well as a job, he wanted to work for a big firm: the bigger
the company the less small he would seem to others and himself. This was
a typical East Asian reaction; and the concept that a man was no more
than who he associated himself with was applicable even to one like Sang
Huin ("Shawn"), as queer as he was. Rosemary Cosmetics was no Samsung in
size nor did it have much merit in global commerce; but this was his
only opportunity at present and from it he hoped it would be his mold
making him into something solid and patterned or at least not a
deciduous, tenuous leaf tossed erratically with every breeze. He wanted
to be connected and to no longer be tortured by those discombobulated
seconds when his self did not register itself-- a time (in his case
usually on the bus between private lessons) when one's consciousness had
a rupture, thoughts seemed even more evanescent, remembered heads of the
people of the past (including his deceased father and sister) got
tangled up on the wrong bodies or the features of those faces became
effaced or alloyed with others' features, and not having the destination
of meaning, the self thus tripped over itself directionlessly.

But a week into contacting long-term overseas customers to
advertise new cosmetics, reestablish relationships by offering a
substantial supply of free samples, and processing orders on the
telephone in a rather menial position that had no guarantee of leading
to something bigger he became less hopeful. Early into the job he knew
that he was just one more cog in one more machine. Early into the job he
knew that it would not make him into this vague, nebulous concept of a
man that he only half-sensed even if fully and wistfully desired; so he
was lost now as he was lost then. But, fortunately for him he was not
entirely lost--almost entirely lost and ineluctably if not indelibly so
but not entirely lost in the complex labyrinth of the thickets of
darkness that was in society and nature as well as one's human nature.

He had his hallowed hobbies which always kept him from wanting to
slit his wrist--solitary hobbies that in one form or another had saved
the oversensitive boy who had felt that his father was afraid of one-on-
one contact with him just as they saved him now. Now the cello was
abandoned for the melancholic sounds of the shokohachi but Gabriele
remained steadfast.  She was his attempt to find simple and innocuous
pleasure and lasting truths that were not in sordid and temporarily
enflaming raptures of ecstasy. She was his higher consciousness, his
higher authority.

Sang Huin was a city boy designed for Seoul. He liked seeing dual
soldiers guarding each portal of every underpass; the dark green
military buses that waited in Chongno Sam Ga, at Yongsei University, and
no doubt in countless sectors of this sprawling mega city; he liked the
drama of tall skyscrapers undaunted by besieging clouds, traffic rushing
here and there as if to foment the provincial sleepiness of Hanguk
society, the variety of people he would encounter in what was on whole a
rather homogenous group of kimchee-eating, child-rearing, follow-the-
leader advocates, and especially passing belatedly through the remnants
of tear gas that had been targeted on boisterous anti-US troop
demonstrations. He liked window shopping through stores that had
Buddhist icons; the sexy galaxy of city lights scintillating like stars;
being in a city where differences were as inconspicuous as rolling
pebbles in an avalanche; the random subway passengers who sometimes,
after buying their tickets, would see him using an English map and ask
him in English if he were lost; the exhilaration of speaking in English
with a probable chance that someone in the immediate area would
understand him; and the many American alternatives to Korean restaurants
(shiktangs). He liked buying groceries--those few he got--beneath
department stores; purchasing expensive clothes for Seong Seob who still
resonated as his makeshift family even if he could not relate to him any
more than anyone else; the big supply of English books in various
bookstores; sex and deodorant. The sex was self- explanatory: he had a
true weakness to touch beautiful things the way he used to stroke the
legged panty-hose of his grandmother when sitting on her lap so as to
feel the friction and static against his fingers. As much as he not only
wanted to end his promiscuity but sever sexuality completely for the
rationale that pleasure bonding was a selfish love that stunted his
ability to care for someone altruistically, he was unable or unwilling
to do it. The touch, smell, and taste of human flesh were inordinate
delights that bypassed his abstemious and acetic intentions.  And as for
deodorant, he, a Korean, did not sweat much, but he, an American, needed
it to feel as if he were not entirely naked. In Seoul, at least,
deodorant was not impossible to find.

Maybe having lived in Umsong for half a year contributed to his
metropolitan enthusiasm since there he was miserable with a malaise
ameliorated a little only on rare occasions of discovering M&M chocolate
candies, pancake mixes, Fruit Loops, and Fruit-of-the-Looms on store
shelves. His stay in Umsong had been like a fearful boy scout in a tent
on a camping expedition--a child looking at black clouds from his small
portal, and wishing to again restake his homestead in the less ominous
domain of his parents' back yard. Still, the isolation had its beauty:
mountainous green hills near lush, green rice fields, and some good
times such as when he and Yang Kwam made their way down a trail in the
forest and then spent the night at the Umsong Stadium sleeping on the
vast green Astroturf in the midst of empty yellow seats and stars.

For some brief minutes one Saturday after waking in darkness Sang
Huin did not know where he was at. He could not get his baring.  He was
still in the dream remake of an incident that happened to him
immediately before he began to write Gabriele--a haunting memory in a
dreamonized state. It was not unlike others he had experienced such as
those of his mother's aloneness when going from the need to water one
plant and then the next  (an idea extrapolated consciously and repressed
to his subconscious from the letters she sent to him), or dragging his
sister by the hair and into a forest so that he could stand there and
watch as she was gang raped to death. Dreams were, of many things,
seeing the self's place in the environment and judging of itself as one
cloud or part of the function of a group of clouds.

The dream of his sister was a major literal distortion of the
reality it was based upon, but that was not the case with this one that
he had just awakened from. It, like the plant-watering dream, had more
of a literal base. It pertained to the Korean girlfriend whom he was
involved with when he first came to Chongju.  In the dream, as in
reality, she said, "You can get a good job teaching at a private high
school--I don't understand why you won't. If you do this, then with your
money and my money we could have a good life together. We could make a
family."   He sensed that she would use him the way any woman studded
pregnancies from infatuated man for children who would be her, the
woman's, happiness.  He sensed how a male slave was compelled to toil as
a provider to an early demise because of the allure of a woman; and then
he told her, "Living petty selfish lives tree hunting, investing money,
house remodeling, complaining about taxes and the kids' dental bills. No
thanks." It was the first time a thought so critical of his parents had
materialized in his mind from all those repressed feelings that had been
smashed under filial respect in accordance with Korean etiquette. If it
weren't for this calculating feminine conniving, the thought of a normal
life with her would have seemed at certain moments as pleasurable as
having one's tongue slicing through ice cream. The sensation of eating
the vanilla of a woman's cold skin might have obfuscated the knowledge
of the forthcoming tonsillectomy. Her eyes were drawing him in. They
were like the placid Great Lakes at night and they sparkled like the
surface of the waters at the occasional passing of boats. The light from
the traffic was her scheming thoughts. "I'm going to have your baby,"
she averred as if this solidified the relationship. "Abort it," he
demanded. He hadn't been effete on that real occasion but the dream that
awakened him had a more masculine firmness of will that was not his own;
and hers was a mellifluous, inveigling sound surreal and harmonious as
waves brushing against the beach.  "Abort it!" he reiterated, "or I'll -
- "

Not able to shake off the dream for a few minutes it was as if he
were a very old and one night the sleep that was supposed to sort his
thoughts, feelings, and sensory details into files of meaning and dates
of occurrence had been ransacked and here he was on his hands and knees
groping about the room trying to pick up scattered paper that had once
been the files of himself. It was as if he were crawling around
scavenging for bits of himself, not heeding the horrified calls of his
old wife who nervously maundered her concerns to him from the bed.

People had come and gone incessantly from his life (the most
important being his sister--taken from him by American violence not the
least of which was his own). Recently Sang Ki and Yang Kwam vanished
from his life; but in all, these phantoms appeared and disappeared
without rhyme or reason like the changeable fish in the small aquarium
belonging to Seong Seob's cousin--there at a given time and then gone.
He sat up in his bed only to become instantaneously albeit vaguely
cognizant that he was at home in Seoul even if he was not really sure
what home was. He stared at that body next to him. It was the same body
that was always there. In ways this gentle and cautious being of a few
mundane habits was so known and yet it was alien in most respects.
Sometimes he thought that Saeng Seob elected to be part of this
relationship and sometimes it seemed as if this friend thought of
himself as a victimized participant. The latter could be sensed there
amidst tacit clues: a despondent sigh, a pleasant tone of voice belied
by pressed angry lips, indifference to sexual pursuits, or rehashing his
wish to study English literature in America if only he had the money to
do it. The tacit, when discerned, was Saeng Seob's coming to terms with
antithetical summations of the relationship.  The compromise was a
suggestion that when choosing between two disagreeable choices he
preferred an unconventional relationship with Sang Huin to the
weathering of belittling comments from the cousin. It wasn't much of a
compliment for in all it was a complement that this relationship existed
for whatever time it might last and nothing more than this.  Also Saeng
Seob's tepidity did not exactly engender within Sang Huin the wish to
possess another: this "virtue" that was monogamy.

The water of his saliva -- warm, wet, and active -- barely squeezed
down the empty hollows of a constricted area of his parched throat. He
put on his bathrobe and went to the bathroom sink. He sipped some
bottled water that was on the counter and splashed cold water across his
face. He looked at his handsome face in the mirror. It was so fervid in
its seriousness and intensity.  Anything that bright had to go out fast.
The idea of getting to be an old gay man like a crumbled old leaf
scooting around aimlessly in the breezes was a thought hideous enough to
trigger off random suicidal aspirations. He doubted that any man's life
near completion constituted much but to be an old faggot without family
and rootedness seemed to him a horror that he did not want to imagine.
He was young now but he knew that the jesters of the years stuck their
tongues out at mortality and ran off quickly to hide someplace. His
childhood had absconded this way.

He remembered wishing to cut his wrist during the trial of his
sister's murderer. The unwitting accomplice that he was, his body (even
more then now) had ached in burdensome guilt.  Now, with hindsight, he
firmly believed that she would have run back to the power and virility
of this successful, married man no matter what he would have done. Back
then she plead for a sanctuary from the one who owned her in the
pleasure of love; but even if he had locked her in her room, instead of
dragging her back to him, on her own she would have gone to the greed,
lust, and ambition that were her interpretation of the American dream.
He knew this at the trial but it did not mitigate his guilt. Back then
the horror, the senselessness, the rape and the slaughtering that were
alleged but unproven with the rotting and effacing of time, the
acquittal, and the general emptiness carried him off to a horror and
disconcerted void worse than death. It was a disconcerted space of
months as a walking mannequin with that one keen perception of seeing
how the darkness of selfishness and destruction were there in all human
pursuits. He walked around the living room. He looked at the clock. It
was now 5:30. He stared out of the window onto the traffic of Seoul. He
hoped that Seong Seob did not hate his life with him. He prayed that he
didn't. There was no indication that he did although he was not blind to
Sang Huin's promiscuity.  Maybe, he thought, he should release Seong
Seob: first experiences did not make any man entrapped in an embedded
pattern.  What they had was innocuous to him but to pursue it any
further might distort the man that Seong Seob might become. Sang Huin
sighed and went back to their bedroom. His fingers slid through a lock
of hair on his friend's head. After much effort he went to sleep.

There in his dreams was this Yang Lin/Shang Ah/"Lucky" character
(He never knew what his name really was) whom he had met that time in
Seoul.  In ways it was him, that one who wanted to become a woman and
had been envious of a bride posing for pictures at Toksugum Palace in
the Chongno Sam-ga area of Seoul, but his features were more spread out,
his nose more like a pig, and he had a dark brown Southeast Asian
pigment. He was an emaciated "money boy" with a book bag swung onto a
bony shoulder; and he was wearing torn jeans, a grey t-shirt and the
rife stink of his rotting skin. He saw him but in Gabriele's eyes.  He
accosted her timidly as she was drawing the reflection of Wat Phra Kaeo
(the Grand Palace): its golden cupolas, stupas, and high triangular
roofs shimmering silver in a fountain that pigeons were using as a bath.
She knew his and her plight instantly: suffering was there, pulling
decades from his skin and misery was intruding on her contemplation of
beauty. It was often that way for artists, for the jungle, beautiful as
it might seem from the external view of its thickets, was a truculent
horror for those with no special skills or who possessed unappreciated
uniqueness; and she smiled painfully at ineluctable fate with its
ensuing moral obligations. She asked if he would allow her to sketch him
and he agreed. He said that he had been living on the streets for one
year; that his mother and brother were living in Rattchaburi; that his
father died when he was nine years old; that sleeping on the streets was
"danger"; and that sometimes "nice" people would talk with him when he
walked around the park, but not often.

This was all she knew of him from dearth, shaky, timid words of
clogged superfluous emotion and the deep swallows of his saliva. She fed
him and this ductile creature began to follow her from a distance after
they said their goodbyes as if repudiating the meaning of the word lest
it be too disconcerting. She had guessed that it would probably be as
this.  Repressing her contempt for Catholicism, she took him to St.
Joseph's High School on Convent Road and the scrutinizing hope-builder
of a nun there referred her to the Holy Redeemers and the hope-builder
of a priest there re-inquisitioned him and told her to come the
following day at 2:00 when the St. Vincent volunteers would arrive. The
priest was unwilling to even give him a corner of a room for some hours
leading to the interview so after taking him to Big C to buy him some
clothes she then took him to her hotel room for she did not want to lose
him to the streets. She mothered him to compensate for the lack of
mothering she had done with her own son. He gave her the gesture of the
"wai"  [wh-I] and stammered his gentle "thank you very much" with every
glass of water that she poured for him, the soap and towel which she
handed to him, and the cushions and blankets that she laid out for him.
The St. Vincent De Paul volunteers re-reinquisitioned him at the church
but through polite reticence, a taciturn distrust of social services, or
saturnine despondency from so much time alone on the streets he
continued his polite statements that he didn't want any help. But she
insisted that he did and went with him two hours through congested
traffic, the bane of Bangkok, to this referral.  When the Maryknoll
brothers in the migrant workers' office reneged on their promise, they
went the two hour ride back from whence they came even though she just
wanted to reject the fragile creature into the thickets of buses, cars,
motorcycles, tuc tucs, buses, and the heavy black trails of carbon
monoxide. Tired and sick from a migraine, she returned to the priest at
Holy Redeemer who had indifferently volleyed her to the St. Vincent
charities. In the priest's office at the rectory she was supercilious
and fulminated her derision of those whose organizational name was a
misnomer, they whose congregations were foreign capitalists whom the
church establishment would never alienate, and they, these emissaries of
the Pope, whose ideas of human worth was just the mimicking of their
donors. She felt anguish for this Thai boy and all of the myriad
throwaways of the planet who were volleyed here and there
indiscriminately and if she had been more like a woman she would have
cried even if the anguish was beyond tears. She decided to redeem him
herself with her consistent presence even if he was AIDS ridden (a
distinct possibility), their conversation was palaver (a certainty), and
even if she had to stay in Bangkok another month or two for his sake (an
inevitability). But one day at the swimming pool he stood there looking
wistfully at those his age without stepping into the water.  She saw
what she had seen when she sketched him that day at the Grand Palace.
Then, his wistful stare was directed toward untainted soccer players
engaged, as boys, in simple pleasures which he would never be able to
partake in. He twitched and stammered out to her that he needed drugs,
men, and money, that the bruise on his arm wasn't really from a dog as
if she had believed that it was, and that she should let him go. Fervent
vacuums of passion were sucking him into the black hole within but when
he packed his things he wouldn't leave. He just sat there on the floor
near some rolled-up blankets in incessant dazed ambivalence until she at
last told him to unpack. The next morning, from being weakened by the
evening's migraine or from the restoration of common sense, she was
insistent that he go begging like a monk and leave her alone. He kow-
towed to her myriad times, began to cry, and said that she was too good
for him. He averred that he would not return. She told him that was fine
and that she wished him good luck but when he was gone she blamed
herself for not giving him a few days of complete sanctuary from the
streets. That evening, after a passing thunderstorm, he knocked and
anxiously slid a card under the door.  When she opened the door the
elevator door had closed.

When he woke up again he could hear the gusts of wind and the
movement of traffic through the open window. There were the smells of
dogs beneath the tattered screen--the living as opposed to the cooked
version thought by Koreans to rejuvenate the body as much as ginseng.
There was also that peculiar amalgamation of odors which was of
evaporating urine-on-sidewalk particles, and the faint exhaust of cars.
There was the light of early morning and it all excited him. He became
conscious of the slight snoring of his special friend and he knew that
this sound was beautiful because he cared about him for otherwise it
would have been an unbearable annoyance.

In mid-afternoon they went swimming. He watched Saeng Seob's dives
which were more complex and aesthetic than any he would have been able
to do. They were Saeng Seob's one action of bold maneuvers that always
renewed Sang Huin's interest in him for creatures of motion like
himself, he knew, could only admire base kinetic movements of the
outside world. Movement outside moved the being within: fervid movement
that flourished pleasurably in one's loins, harmonized with hormones
amuck in the bloodstream, and revived dopamine that was to be as
lightning through neurons and pleasure receptors of the brain.

When they returned the mail had come. The envelope of one letter
had been forwarded from Chongju to Umsong and then Umsong to Seoul. It
was from his mother who kept forgetting his address just as she forgot
that he was living with a man to have a semblance of family the best
that he was able to do. She wrote that she called the office of Shin Se
Gue in Chongju but the telephone line was disconnected. He knew that she
was not thinking either that it had moved to Umsong or that he was now
in Seoul. Small ideas seemed to easily blow from the posting on the
surface of her memory.  She was suppressed in busy habitual action in
which thoughts would have trouble permeating through her hardened,
desiccated surface. Her daughter and concept of the world at large had
been mauled by the hungers of the night so of course she was not alive -
-just a hollow ambulatory thing like the swift moving cockroach.  There
was no real content in the letter apart from the lack of content itself:
a patio table and a hummingbird feeder that she had bought, the
wallpapering of another room for the umpteenth time, trees, roses, and
tree roses which she had planted. He kept folding, unfolding, and
refolding the empty envelope into and from smaller rectangles, felt warm
and flushed, and could only think how there were not any relatives for
the two of them apart from each other. There never would be more than
this; and there would be nothing at all of family with her passing. In a
flare of emotions that were sensitive but callow he wanted to "go home"-
-to abandon every reality that he knew here by jumping through a child's

He couldn't think what to say when he tried to write back to her so
he went with Saeng Seob and his dog for a walk. In a park at dusk they
heard the sounds of birds and crickets and they felt the majestically
warm day trail and descend into a gentle cloak of coolness.

"Did you write your mother?" asked Saeng Seob.

"Didn't know what to say.  I'll mail a traditional Korean doll to
her or something.  Where would I find something like that?"

"Wouldn't know," said Saeng Seob.  The world was America now so why
would he.

"Something. It doesn't matter what it is. Some type of clutter--
things: she likes that sort of thing."

Chapter Thirty-Six

In one perspective she believed that these circumstances not so much
governed by choice turned out to be quite liberating: the lackadaisical
dereliction of motherhood which came about from that love of a man, and
the divestiture of her life in Sapporo the result of a divorce from him.
Within that perspective she was a child humbling herself to circumstance
as if it were the mandate of a parent or god who would supply routine to
process her directionless whims. In such a frame of mind she would think
thoughts similar to this: "It doesn't have to be seen that way -- as
child abandonment--that sort of thing. Only simpletons would judge me or
any other thoughtful woman considering and doing the same. This taking
off of a role that does not fit me is just a disrobing in dawn to take a
shower -- and who is to say that my departure is not a predestined
conclusion?  I really didn't take off anything. Adagio is the one who
took me off and took off to Kansas. Then I took the flight to Tokyo and
then -- What does any of it matter anyway? I haven't bothered to put on
the mother garb equating it as garbled garbage but who is to say that it
is not better for the boy in the long term? I would need a lower IQ to
constrict myself in instinctual roles like a content biological robot.
It is no more preposterous to believe in fate allowing me this
contemplative time than it is to think that slipping  $50.00 in a
homeless person's cup would release him from pain and vice, that
altruism perpetuates good, or that a loving god allows planes to slam
into the World Trade Center Towers. If I am bad the creator of time and
the universe is worse. Maybe any being that thinks outside the box would
be perceived as bad by these simpletons -- even God were these
simpletons not so simple as to fear thinking Him evil." The failure of
Her Vastness, Ms. Sangfroid, in motherhood and marriage the result of an
adulteration in mixing, had been more than a bit discombobulating at the
times when they occurred and they were even discombobulating now; but
then and now she tried to address them as external details like an
uncomfortable raincoat that she would wear for a time during a storm
which she wouldn't be able to wait out. Since that time when she was a
girl watching her reticent father's rejuvenation from a commune with
himself in his solitary walks on the beach she had sought this acme of
aloneness. Here it was, albeit in a warmer environment than the
Antarctic camp she envisaged for herself, and she shouldn't have been

In a sense this disconnection that had her abscond across the border
like a fugitive at large was as harmonious as the breakers which she
would watch for an hour each late afternoon on the Tijuana beach:
harmonic and not missing a beat; the mesmerizing splashes cleansing the
conscience; the optimistic fizz; and the inconsequence of her seemingly
insouciant or reckless actions when measured against this seemingly
infinite and permanent body of water. The solitary disconnection of the
lonely sea was the reflection of her self and together they whispered
inscrutable truths to her consciousness; and surely if she needed
anything to comfort her, she needed the Pacific Ocean.  But storm clouds
often coalesced around her diurnal sunsets on the beach before
dissipating into the desert city's heat, seagulls seemed to have a
wailingly ominous sotto voce as they spiraled about in the winds, and
her thoughts dwelled on this Berlin wall which sliced through the
Mexican-American shore. The drab wall with its painted words of "El
Mundo partido" reinforced by a picture of the broken egg shell of a
world became uglier and more piercing as gigantic stakes or prison bars
standing out of the water. Each time that she saw these divided
territorial waters they constantly reminded her that the city and her
departure -- really her quasi-belief that circumstances dictated her
withdrawal -- were far from an oasis. She would recall the words of
Herodotus that "No man steps into the same water twice" and this would
aggravate a restlessness in her restfulness prompting her to arrange
more frequent meetings with Hilda than she would have done otherwise.
Through socializing, she hoped to get a reprieve from the bites of
conscience that came upon her as stealth as a vampire.

Certainly Tokyo to Tijuana hadn't been a gentle transition with
serendipitous fate disgorging onto a life the way that it did. The
molten heat had changed the landscape of the self and as its only
cartographer she, a divorcee who regretted having ever mixed with a man,
was now beginning to map out who she was and it wasn't easy.

Now with Hilda at an outdoor table of a lesbian pub, both eating
their nachos and cheese and drinking their tequila diluted in Sprite,
her happy demeanor was a little bit affected. As Hilda renamed the food
("tomales" henceforth to be called "tofemales") it bordered on
giddiness.  Happy as she was or was not on this day of her birth, she
could not deny the fact that the ineluctable stirring of memory was
scathing her. Some late nights in her solitary bed it was more of a
lacerating pierce of claws. Before the divorce she would at times wake
up from a dream of a tank running down her son and pulverizing him into
layers of permafrost. After the divorce there were these same dreams but
with him pulverized into dust; and they were mixed with those of finding
herself naked in Isetan Department Store -- Japanese clerks, doormen,
and beautiful bowing welcome-ladies all staring at her in consternation
until an Ikebana instructor in the flower shop threw a blanket over her
that was woven in American dandelions.

The dreams were not from guilt -- or at any rate not much conscious
guilt.  She told herself that a little responsible compunction was fine
for it reminded her of others' unfulfilled wishes that in an ideal world
she would have liked to see herself obtain for them but further guilt
was unwarranted. She didn't even believe in guilt -- a goddess balancing
so many perspectives and antithesis perspectives as she was. Sure, the
ideal for her son would have been for her to be a Betty Crocker/Dr.
Spock hybrid and to give herself exclusively to motherhood and child
development. However, responsible as one should be to others how could
she have disregarded the strange novel sounds that splashed in her
imagination? If happiness was not in devouring sensual experiences that
brought about pleasure but being a kind, contemplative juggler of human
perspectives (watching, meditating, and loving all passerby) surely this
realm of the divine that separated gods from self-centered beasts could
not be willfully disregarded. Still, even she was a social creature.
Despite her cold independent aloofness she could have had a self easily
demarcated by others -- a self that to ever be real at all needed to see
itself beyond others' use of it. For someone like her who was infinite
and without parameters, pinning oneself onto a man's last name was the
action of being Mrs. Nobody and so this Kato and Michael relationship
had been the magic pill restoring her to herself after a bout of a needy
illness called love.

That being the case she shouldn't have been happier. So the
envisaged Antarctic seals and walruses were really myriad Mexicans
wallowing languishingly in another overpopulated city. So, the only
penguin she saw from the outdoor table of the lesbian pub was a green
uniformed motorcycle cop trudging as quickly as he could in his boots
toward a public restroom where he might lawfully urinate. So the
unadulterated snowy landscape, untouched and untainted by human hands,
was lucky to have very few palm trees as deeply rooted in hard clay soil
as it was -- soil arid as desert sand. And peaceful Camp Gabriele in
Antarctica turned out to be TJ, a city filled with drug addicts, drug
lords and perhaps one or two intoxicated goddesses like herself.

Tonight with Hilda, shaking her booty in the pub's adjacent lesbo-
disco hall as if both had anything outside of contempt for men in their
minds, She drank more booze like all goddess predecessors from Hera and
Aphrodite to Shirley McClain.

Her afternoon had been spent depicting miscellaneous individuals
waiting in a queue in front of the immigration building which was the
portal to their jobs in San Ysidro or San Diego; and from there, like a
beggarly Indonesian caricature artist instead of the successful artist
that she was, she would sell her paintings on the street "for nickels
and dimes," (each a hundred pesos or some such sum if subtraction for
policemen extorting money were figured into the calculation). She
addressed such policemen in a taciturn manner with hard stony
supercilious eyes made all the harder by that male look of wanting to
fuck the Gringa with the attitude.

Head and body spinning separately on the dance floor with a shot
of pure tequila in her hands ready to be devoured so she could be
devoured in its fire (the base instincts of mankind wanting to mutate an
individual into flames), in one moment she was telling herself how
relieved she was to no longer be the inane thing in this little box of
the personal life and the next moment she was reminiscing about the past
foolishly. She thought of romantic walks with Michael through cherry
orchards; their long hours in partnership at the store; she, her
husband, and Atsushi Kato eating sushi, soba, mizu soup, and okanimiyaki
in museum restaurants; she and Kato making deformed sumo wrestlers out
of ice; she and Kato's sister scrubbing each other's backs in a sento;
and of course Kato leading them to sites and to her newly founded
interest in the native people of Japan, the Ainu.

But her best memories of then, as with all sundry memories in
general, were of being alone for she was always trying to squeeze her
head and neck through a small portal to the entity. She was always
trying to glimpse ideas and still depth beyond this world and deep
within the self. Back then there were solitary ponderings in summer
walks along the coast of the Sea of Japan. There, walking on prodigious
cement slabs shaped like tacks, which stopped the erosion of the beach
by high tide, she turned toward ocean pointing to America and
contemplated all.  She took long walks in street markets and along
shipyards, each street of the metropolis smelling like fish.  She was
alone then and it had been good. Now it was dirt and pinatas; colina
deserts and an eternal sun; and Mexican drunks, beggars, and vendors
along the bridge that went over the contaminated river.  As the cool air
seductively concealed the breadth of its heat in the dirty desert called
Tijuana, so she shrouded herself in a sense that she was free from the
powers of men, sexuality, mythology, motherhood, and all human concern
that gnawed into one's entrails.

They were returning to their apartments with the expectation that
Hilda would, by tradition, dunk Gabriele 's face in a birthday cake. In
the car she thought of Nathaniel and her property with deep
homesickness.  She thought of her liquid assets that were mostly
embezzled by her ex-husband but were in part tied up in stocks and
bonds.  Something was amiss.

Chapter 37

Her ongoing separation from her house, land, and financial
resources could have made her succumb to an emotionally mutable
perspective of feeling, for a time, as if she had lost everything and
then to a feeling that she needed to hurry back to New York State before
what little she had was all lost to her.  She didn't even know for sure
the name of this lawyer of the ex-in-laws--in-laws who in their own
elusive way were also nebulous figures. This lawyer of these Bassetes
(ex-husband going under the name of Quest) supposedly diverted some of
the interest of her savings to property tax, the maintenance of the
house, and no doubt whatever the legal expenses were. It was property
that, by now, could be razed to the ground and paved with a highway for
what she knew of it; and such neglect at being responsible for herself,
an aberration from who she was, kept disturbing her equanimity.

Her placid state of mind could have easily been ravaged by maudlin
brooding, homesickness, maternal stirrings of instinct, and multifarious
emotionally fueled reasons to return to Albany.  And it would have been
so without determined supercilious will that rebounded her back to her
stoic, rational, and insular existence. There in her supercilious brain,
amidst the endless walls of tidy, barren, and ostensibly eternal gray
matter, she would soar within curtailed bounty and the journey within
would seem as an ongoing discovery on the edge of a non-spherical
universe. But sometimes without warning the eternity would become a
constricted little room and then she would be nothing but a
claustrophobic black bird that one day years ago got trapped in the
living room of her trailer in Ithaca when she was cleaning a window.
Like that sight-trusting bird ready to window-bang itself into oblivion
rather than accept the conclusion of pain, obsessed with thought she
would crash repeatedly against the walls of her brain. In such migraines
she almost felt locked away in her cold, impersonal thoughts-- locked
away behind walls bigger than any the American government could envisage
against Mexico. She would seem locked away in thoughts and only this,
unable to conceptualize a higher and more unfathomable wall than this.
Would not Parmenides have been abhorred to hear the "nous" so defiled.
She didn't care. Heraclitus was now her unsung hero; and not even Plato
or God himself, if there were one (which there wasn't), understood
migraines except those who experienced them.  And sicknesses of all
types were exacerbated all the more in foreign countries even if one
were lucky enough to have a native friend like Ms. Quest's Hilda who had
held her head steady and tilted to the toilet on a couple occasions.

Property: she would define it as that claim on a person or thing to
seem to oneself to be.  It was like that idiot, Alan Shepard, putting an
American flag on the moon; but it was from that idiot, Shepard, that, in
girlhood one of her more original ideas was reinforced enough to become
a calcified decision or at least a determined perpetual caprice. At the
age of eight, seeing those rerun black and white images of this so-
called "groovy" astronaut as he bounced around the moon with the stars
and stripes (these declarative bounces of ownership and half
expectations to encounter a whole host of mooners to pose his symbol
to), and recently having learnt of a place on Earth not rife in human
herds, she decided to stake her flag on Camp Gabriele, Antarctica in
that self-declared city of one. Now, as then, she knew that she had
never had anything but herself to begin with and that this was as she
liked it.

Being divorced, she could have clung to these things that were
hers, declaring them as such in her own mind to reiterate that she was a
separate being from what was once her husband or was once believed to be
her husband. She could have felt victimized and vulnerable from this
chemical volatility of mixing with people and men, these two species
that she might have enjoyed had she thought of them as pets. An
emotional neediness could have rushed her back to motherhood and
attempts at freshly burnt chocolate chip cookies. With less intelligence
she might have even thought of it as    her maternal calling to nurture
him, her ungrateful son, and cater to his selfish whims under the guise
of love and doing good.  She could have feigned a contentment within the
narrow parameters of this easily made/easily fumbled role without noting
the hypocritical and selfish neediness that would have been therein
especially for a woman like her, a returning child deserter. It would
have been so had she believed in feeling something about anything and to
allow feelings to drag her around; but for her even succumbing to
numbness was a very peculiar state to be shaken off like a lint-ridden

She was the one who had been barely able to embrace the favored
one, Rick, on that first severing of Michael and herself.  On that day
of the first, less consummated, closure to specious romance she had, in
a sense, embraced him albeit no differently than the fall of a metal bar
at a toll road.  Parting from Rick on that day, internally she had been
more like the lachrymose stirring of a statue of Mary, Mother of God,
but the boy would not have known that. For him, who had lost his first
mother to breast cancer, he would only have that memory that her arms
came down on him and then raised up like that bar at a tollbooth.

And if she were to continue in this quest to remove herself from
this ownership mania of this self-proclaimed American brand of the
common herd, she would continue to do so with the same dry, permanent
logic.  If the means of defining ownership of property were a mutual
claim of ownership by the person to the land and the land to the person
the most recent contracts would have taken place in the 19th century
when the deceased was united in the ultimate act of consummation: the
decay into that plot of land which had sustained him or her. That being
true, she reasoned, she owned nothing.  It seemed to her that if it were
true of the land the mutuality of the contract would be even more of an
imperative condition in human relations.

On weekends in Japan such an enormous exodus of people would come
out to do their shopping; whereas for her, having had no firmly set
schedule that enslaved her and not needing to release an enslaved being
in the unbound weekend freedoms of malls, she had found a more internal
brooding in the Hokkaido cold.  She had feasted on poets and
philosophers. She had learnt of Japanese history, art, and traditional
mask carvings.

Here in TJ, impecunious as she was, she couldn't have bought
anything major had she wanted to.  A portable black and white
television, which she aptly called the "noise box" or "noise companion,"
had been her most expensive purchase. But this matching of circumstances
to a repudiation of ownership, far from being a grievance against fate,
was liberation like that felt at being naked and under a hot shower.  It
was an ablution from soiled things sticking onto her and she was glad it
was that way.

She found great creative energy from being here transposing the new
environment to the permanency of color and theme that man's impermanent
and mundane movements seemed to lack; and she almost believed that
creativity lay within this country and culture instead of the omnipotent
Self.  It seemed to be there in this defiant city that despite being
conjoined to San Ysidro, California, nonetheless maintained its distinct
character: brains as blank slates to English, pinatas dangling from
store awnings, and children wearing Indian feathers in celebrations of
Juarez Day or running around in scanty rags in celebration of the day
itself.  But really TJ was not the cause of her creativity. It was just
a reminder of her own defiance of stale, patterned existence--a defiance
that expected and demanded novelty in Tijuana's warm sun and cool,
piercing shadows. But it was more than the connection of land, artist,
and paint. Here, within, was a tame volcanic oozing, frothy as waves,
reshaping her clay landscape apposite to her liking. To wake up each
morning anew in being exhilarated her: now an artist of a new land;
recently a Spanish-babbling pseudo-lesbian consummated once via Hilda if
sex were a consummation of anything; immediately upon arriving in TJ she
had been a remover of old bourgeois skin and a student of Spanish; and
before that, she had been a ripped rag doll in such consternation about
the "Kato thing"--that "kato thing" tearing out the seams of the fabric
enclosing her stuffing in such apposite serendipity.

There on the city bus, her seated stiffness jiggling like jello no
differently than the tacky homemade sign of " La Playa/Calle Linda
Vista" dangling from its windshield, Gabriele again recalled the
delusionary socialized will that had possessed her. She reassessed her
time in Japan with the same results. She surmised once more that the
doll that she had been or had pretended to be deserved to be unthreaded,
destuffed, and remade. With her detached eyes ensconced in sunglasses,
she glanced at the rear of the bus where Hilda sat. They had been
separated at the time of stepping into it by a sparse availability of
seats so now she could not see her very well in the throngs of those who
were standing. Still there a corner of her was, a conspicuous being with
quasi-blonde hair and an aloofness no less "unfriendly," as Michael
spoke of her own "bitchiness," than herself.

Seated alone, she discerned that the separation at present was
good for both of them. Earlier, when on the beach that they were now
returning from, Gabriele had smote her friend with a cold stare.
Considering that Hilda had repeatedly served the volleyball on the beach
as if she were trying to make a slam dunk with it, of course this
desperate attempt to win the game had annoyed and amused Gabriele.   She
would have laughed at the quasi-volley morality that defied the spirit
of the game and she would have congratulated her, more or less, had a
larger issue not preceded it.

"Fuck, don't tell me that little swim has pooped you out already,

"No," said Hilda as if she were not sure whether to make her
monosyllable into a statement or a question; nor if it should be
positive or negative.

"We've just put up the net.  Serve the fucking ball! "

"Gabriela, I was just thinking that -- "

" A positive thought or something quite negative?"

"My own brilliance. I can't see that it is either one."

"But, unlike you I foresee storm clouds ahead -- clouds of my
friend's own making." Gabriele chortled but Hilda smiled malevolently,
moved a few feet back, and sat on the sand to tie her loose shoelaces.

Hilda was feeling too loose (either too dissolute or too unwed and
so not dissolute enough in the   apparent absence of romance and absence
of belonging that was part of a couple's merry-making), and this
manifested itself to Gabriele's sagacious discernment. "You know, you
should not laugh at your own jokes," Hilda criticized her. "You can be
amused by yourself -- God knows you are so good at that anyhow, playing
alone in your sterile ideas -- but that is as far as it should go."

"What is your problem?"

"I don't have any--just yours--what you don't concern yourself

"Oh? Sorry. Like what? What don't I concern myself with?  You?"

"No, not me. I don't need anyone.  Forget it. None of it is my

Gabriele stuffed some snuff into her pallet and then scratched her
head for a few seconds. "It's a beautiful late Monday morn, Hilda," she
said in the hope that from placating words and prevarications the
noxious mood would disperse and vanish into air like smoke. " I for one
want to seize the day. All the mental prostitutes are being exploited,
except for you and I who have some sense about such things and will
probably live to be 120 years old as a consequence, God forbid! "  She
pulled out two cans of beer from a cooler and spit out the dark tactile
saliva that had been littering her mouth in senseless mass and clutter
no differently than planets in the void of space. As perspectives were
always dictated by the demands of the body in those who were not in full
control of their minds, Gabriele had a hunch that Hilda was experiencing
menstruation and feeling resentful that their physical encounter was not
followed by redundant ones.  If so, she surmised, Hilda's mood was a
combination of hormonal imbalances and withdrawal symptoms from dopamine
not arriving in the pleasure receptors of her brain in quantities
commensurate with that earlier experience.

Hilda feigned a more pleasant smile despite herself.  "Engaged as
we are in contemplative leisure."  These were words she often heard from
Gabriele and her bantering mocked them good-naturedly.

"Well said, and in English to boot."  They had departed from the
world of stress-ridden fools shifting their needs for pretty escape art
and aerobic therapy onto them.  They had departed from the imaginary
world of believing oneself to have importance catering to others' wishes
and had submitted themselves over to the salt inundations of the Pacific
Ocean. They had submitted themselves over to the entity as much as tepid
will allowed.  For at present neither of them would drown themselves to
be fully and foolishly part of the entity.

Seated beside her friend, Gabriele incrementally shaped a harder
replica of her from the mold of the subject and the plaster of the
dampened sand. In part it no longer looked like Hilda but an effigy of

"So, what about me don't I take responsibility for? What is the
source of this anxiety for my sake?"

"How am I to tell if you suffocate me?"

"I'll be extraordinarily careful when I get up to the face. Don't

"I've rested enough. Let the games begin," Hilda giggled.

"Not right yet. Give me the answer to my query and this stiff mummy
will rise again."

"I was thinking at the time that you shouldn't be with me. It isn't
like we are a couple. I was thinking to myself that you should be
playing volleyball with your son. I worry about him not having a

"Do you want me to leave you, Hilda?"   Despite the withdrawn and
impassive eyes her lips were compressed into a smile and she was ready
for any answer.  Any answer would have amused her, but she was betting
on a particular muddled response. Having a keen enough discernment of
human behavior that she could be flawlessly "scientific" in predictions
Gabriele's goal, and she wanted it to be ongoing unlike all other forms
of epiphany.

"I don't own you. Come, go, or stay for life.  It's all the same to
me. Well, all right not fully. Maybe I care some but to tell you the
truth, I don't know what you think of me or what you want; and the
reality is that you are a mother -- I'm not -- so do what you have to

Gabriele had predicted each meandering and sinuous thought with
accuracy. Still she said, "No prevarications. Frankness, feeling
comfortable to be such, doing it in respect, and measuring in other
realities in as objective manner as possible -- a relationship is
relating and we do it with the perfection that only goddesses can do in
such matters." She knew that her positive summary was from the overall
relationship rather than this moment in time. A more myopic perspective
would not have produced a full rendering of truth.  Reality in any sense
was more than any conscious registering of it. It was more convoluted.
Although perhaps no different than the jealous remarks of Hera to Zeus,
Hilda's acrimonious tone seemed boringly uncelestial. She was to some
degree saying that if it were the ending of their intimacy then she,
Gabriele, might as well head across the border back to the wealthy of
San Diego.  One aspect of their relationship had been an appreciation of
self-containment, but here Hilda was jealous of it.  "About my son, I
don't know where he is."

"That's never made any sense to me."

"Either he's still with my aunt and she doesn't want to admit this
fact or he's with my untraceable sister-in-law in the domain of her
maternal possessiveness; but he is okay wherever he is at, and by now
not so keen to play games with me."

Gabriele had not been able to concentrate on the volleyball game
with Hilda from thinking of her son; and exploiting this weakness
through unscrupulous serves, Hilda had won the game.  Now, riding on the
bus, she was no less irritated than before. It was an irritation at
being reminded of her own negligence. By bringing a being into the world
one was contractually obligated to nature to care for him and to see
that his life came to good. Such a woman was obligated to forfeit her
own growth to grow offspring. This was her own moral code gained from
contemplative reason and she had violated it.

Gabriele stared at a couple of college students dressed in their
uniforms.  The male was comparing his large dark hand to the female's
smaller and lighter one.  This hand-play caused Gabriele's face to
cringe in repulsion.  This rapacious need to extend beyond oneself in
mergers with other persons violated human decency.  To want to know
more, be more, in all life's activities was the precept of Aristotle;
and certainly this girl wanted to know what it would be like to wear the
man, to share his thoughts, and to merge with him.  And her body was
telling her there was intimacy in this most intense lowly pleasure and
pain of him riding within her. Still, the lesser knowledge that it was,
it was repugnant by being so void of anything wise. These human beings
linked their cars so as to be declared a train as if a car alone really
were so small.  The linking of a series of defective cars running along
on a defective track surely was not a successful attempt at extension;
and from now on, she vowed, her caboose would not be banged into such

A woman who was standing with her child moved up to the front of
the bus and sat the child on a padded hump of the transmission near the
bus driver's gear shift. It was obviously difficult for her to keep the
girl seated and the mother applied reasoning with admirable patience and
self-restraint.    Although Gabriele could not hear what the mother was
whispering to the fidgeting child, she heard the child's responses of
"Si" and this appeal to reason seemed lovely.   It was the length of the
talk and the delicacy by which the woman addressed the child's
sensitivities that saturated Gabriele in beauty. She was beginning to
see motherhood in a new light. She was beginning to think that these
preconceived notions that housed her were houses of straw and could
easily be blown away.

Perhaps, she thought, beyond conveniences, vaccines, and modern
gadgets that often reduced "mental prostitution" to a 5 day affair, on
rare occasions one stumbled across enlightenment in modern society that
heretofore rested in voluminous, rarely read publications of deceased
sages. Perhaps "God," this unfathomable entity who reacted indifferently
to human affairs including thousands perishing hideously in the World
Trade Center, was now sticking his tongue out at her and calling her a
"know-it-all" in such an invigorating event; but it defied logic that a
deity who would smash entire civilizations in the palms of its hands as
if humans were mosquitoes would think her, this lone individual, worthy
of the contempt and enlightenment of the tongue gesture. Even more, why
should she believe that God sat her on the bus to see this mother and
child as if she were the honored guest in the audience of a great
symposium.  Not being satisfied with her atheistic conclusions in this
strange world, she was again left with the conclusion that something did
exist out there, that permanent substance that was the entity or the
prime mover, and it existed outside human logic.

A couple hours later, still in shorts and sunglasses (bathing
suits worn underneath), she and Hilda sat down at an outdoor table of
the lesbian pub. They were in the middle of dinner and a fourth shot of
undiluted tequila when a woman uneventfully passed by their table and
went inside.  "Nice ass!" said Hilda.

"Huh? For Heaven's sake it is a   padded seat and tool for
excrement. Really, Hilda, is there nice and mean, nice and ugly, nice
and not useful to such things unless a fluke happens where one was born
without an ass." It was then that she decided to return to America.

In her sleep on an American Airlines flight from San Diego to
Albany Gabriele dreamed that she was with Hilda once again on the beach.
They were in front of a volleyball net witnessing the descending sun
when Hilda broke the ineffable silence.

"You say bullshit all the time.  The things you say are so true and
so false.  You are so profound about temporary families, selfish
children, marriage as weak people running away from the solitude that is
part of inhabiting one's head, that work is prostitution, things as ball
and chains to carry around, claiming one's essence, blah blah, but life
isn't objective. It is subjective -- so you miss your husband, son, and
things because being without them would make you naked."

Gabriele then took off her shirt in protest. With icy eyes, and
bouncing boobs, she attempted successful counter maneuvers against
Hilda'   slam dunk serves.  Her hardness crackled through the air beyond
an impassively proud countenance; but she justified it in her own mind,
the only mind that mattered in such petty but necessary judgment calls.
She told herself that even if this wariness of social situations were an
imperfect instinct of primitive man to quickly assess the danger of a
given social situation its having persisted to present to free one of
her social instinct was to its merit.

She woke up from a tray of food being passed unto her. She felt a
peculiar sense of being unsettled and    wanting to know what was real
and what was unreal.  She wanted to find out how to keep from being
swept up into one illusion or another--she who in recreation flitted
facts in her imagination from biographical profiles of the cabinet
members of Germany and the names of successive presidents of Moldavia to
the characteristics of albino frogs, myriad owls, and Henry and William
James. Was the present moment best celebrated in thought and
contemplation, in action, in study, a shot of tequila and glib,
frivolous talk with Hilda at the lesbian pub, a swim, and a movement of
limbs?  Was it possible to live life without being in its illusions?
Hilda began to fade away and Nathaniel ("Adagio") and the Man With the
Unmemorable Name became stronger.

Chapter 38

When lacking that introspection which might conjure bits of a
"real" destination and purpose little related to the external factors
surrounding a life, a self can only seem to be such in its incessant
spinning and preoccupation with movement. And so it is for him, glutton
that he is for movement in his Fiat Coupe with its turbo engine,
vibrating phallus of a gearshift, maximum legal carbon emissions spat
into the chaotic world, the bruit of rap music (his reflection) blaring
from the CD player, and the motor's cacophony flooding him with the
sexual rhythms that cascade in his veins.  Together the man and the
machine are Descarte's concept of dualism. Together they are an
expenditure of energy and only this.

That is not to say that Nathaniel has been without any contrived
sense of destination and purpose in all these months of itinerant
wandering. With the need to concoct reasons to justify one's movements
as a condition of consciousness, he has feigned his share of plans,
purposes, and agendas. The easiest contrived sense of destination
compelled him to travel to San Antonio. There, for five months, he
easily imposed himself into the bed in Hispanic Betty's one room
efficiency since the need for enflaming pleasure and extension was so
pivotal in both the callow man and the older woman.  With Betty
perfecting the role of sycophant, being there could have remained
exciting to him for a few more months and tolerable for a great many
more had she not absconded into the battered women's shelter leaving him
to face the landlady and the unpaid rent on that emptied efficiency.

Now there is the long drive to Kansas, but it is only in having
come so close to its borders that the idea of destination seems to be
the spurious murmurings of a self-needing to aver its existence. It is
in going so far, so close, that his mother's relative seems so unrelated
to his life.  He has no one. He feels that it has always been this way
and that it has been good.

He turns off the engine and places the nozzle in the aperture of
the gas tank triggering certain sexual associations that are part of his
adolescent susceptibilities. Vague impressions of the violence he has
imagined himself capable of perpetrating amalgamate loosely with others
he has in fact perpetrated, making the distinctions less obvious than
they should be. In his naps in the car earlier this day (naps on the
side of the road the result of mesmerizing taps of rain on the car's
face and chaise as well as the monotonous drag of the windshield wipers)
both what happened and what could have happened connected together fully
and strangely. Then what might have been was no different than what was.
Each time waking up in his car he was startled by a fiendish nightmare
of himself that was worse than he was; and he wondered if he could be a
less deleterious force if he were to channel his misogyny in small
actions against a woman, any marginally attractive woman, who would
think of an occasional slap as a chastening tool and an aphrodisiac. To
subtly ooze out caustic contempt on a tolerant loving woman instead of
allowing it to be repressed and to foment underground like molten rock
ready to disgorge seemed the kindest thing to do.

There in the rain he stares at a Laundromat, which is adjacent to
the convenience store and the filling station. As he removes the nozzle
the nerves in his neck begin to twitch like the bodies of crawdads when
he used to snap off their heads. He remembers being in such a Laundromat
as a young boy:  there with his mother, both eating the French Cream
sandwiches that she would order, and riding around in a cart. Having
made the simile of his nerves being as decapitated crawdads, he
remembers scoffing at Rick's horrified and demurred expressions to the
point where the boy, who also had been cornered by circumstance into a
cobbled family structured from two lone adults with their sexual
urgencies and agendas, began to immolate Nathaniel's actions. He
remembers his mother witnessing this snapping of the crawdad heads, and
this, his corruptive influence on the favored one.  He recalls how she
attempted to embrace this lachrymose Rick in as much as she was capable
of embracing anything in her hardened hubris walls, the merciless
beatings of him alone with those bear paws of hers, and then taking that
favored one shopping without him. He tries to stop himself from thinking
of her, which is difficult for him since all his years are in some
respect intertwined around her.

Gabriele sat at the computer in the bedroom of her house writing
email.  She had been in that house for nearly two months and had rarely
communicated with anyone until the change that took place two weeks
earlier. As laid back as she was in her lazy-boy recliner of solitude
she was like any couch potato who had too much of a good thing and it
had been like that for a score of days.  She needed to stretch.  She
needed to extend outward.

Dear Hilda:

  Hmm, blisters, cold sores and the like. Gee god.  I'm no nurse so
what would I know?  Iodine for the former and staying off your feet
would be my only recommendation. Yes, I espouse the same anti-work
themes intractably. Work less and contemplate more and then you can say
that you actually lived some moments of each day instead of this unreal
incessant moving, futuresque planning, and, akin to slavery, catering to
the wishes of others to have a few pesos in oneOs pockets.  All of it
thwarts the present moment

  Regarding this guy who asked you to the bullfight at the stadium
a las playas you don't need my permission. You are my moon but I'm not
Alan Shepherd staking my flag into your heart. I'm glad the pendulum
swing to the same sex is now over and a more subtle and neutral momentum
is beginning. Still if you are going to give up women why stop there?
What's more revolting than a man? And not to deliberately make you
happy, which it will, I am jealous albeit on a nominal scale as anchored
as I am in reason. I must tell you that my happy month and a half of
self-containment in my home, following my politely rude expulsion of the
tenants, ended in a sojourn through hell as one might expect.  This
sister in law, Sharon is--well, I don't want to say anything negative.
She has bona fide reasons to hate me so who am I to stop her? Needless
to say I didnOt score any points on the phone asking that she give me
Rick too.  She was justifiably irate and although the door did not slam
in my face when I finally did go there  (unlike the phone fiasco with
the receiver slammed into my ear) being there was unpleasant.  When I
came there I didn't know whether I should play the disoriented ex-wife
and the contrite transgressor as an expedient so I just stayed me
throughout my time there opting for being true to myself and to let the
dominoes fall all around me. It seems to me that all noble people
project an image of a given thing to a listening recipient which shows
it to be the way the thing really is regardless of the consequences.  A
cat can pretend to be stealth and invisible, but does that mean it is
smart? How clever are disingenuous actions really?  ArenOt most problems
on this planet due to this animalistic self-preserving cleverness?  I
think so.

  The last thing I wanted to do was to score points with that
snobbish hag  ("My family often goes to art auctions to buy real modern
European art") or to pull the kid into the car with sympathy.  The idea
of being contrite and ingratiating myself to a child for adult choices
that are never ideal is not my way of spending a day.

  Sharon was half way entertaining when it came to talking about
Michael --parents pushing him into a marriage so he ran off to marry
this old hag, yours truly. She thought it would disconcert me but I
can't think of anything more intriguing--nay, not life on Mars or
cosmology--nay, nay, nay, nay, but knowing an ex husband's petty
psychological profile and dirty laundry. I asked her if Michael   was
always running around with his male friends a lot prior to my marriage.
This shut her up.

  She seems to take on and off men like her panties--now with a black
candyman. They are the best sexually. IOd know. Seems to be searching
for that man who will help her define herself and needing the
consistency of 2 boys not her own in the meantime. Now as then I feel
sorry for her.  She was so lugubrious the whole time like taking
Nathaniel would devastate her world.  I told her that we would often
arrange get-togethers with the two boys but this worsened things by
making her despondent.

  About Nathaniel, in this room of his with all its rebellious
musical noise and pop culture clutter in accordance with Maslow's
hierarchy for adjusted and less well adjusted children alike, he just
stared at me with dead eyes like a Jew about ready to be gassed. Then,
he said,  "One bitch is about the same as another."  I had to laugh at
first and then I grimaced.   When I removed the arrow from my heart
(pardon the clichZ) I almost felt relieved to not be declared a "f--
bitch" although he is quite young and surely with time this will no
doubt be a forthcoming utterance of his lexicon. After all, boys are
known for their ingenuity. I told him he could choose and once chosen he
needed to own up to his choice like a man and make the best out of it.
He said he hated Rick and for this reason he would go back with me. So
this is my fate granted unto me for wanting a connection, my version of
family, and yet not wanting its obligations to domineer over me.
--Always, your friend, Gabriele.

She deleted  "always." It was a ludicrous word when probably the
universe itself was temporary as all things within it that were
unequivocally temporary.   She changed it to " --your friend, Gabriele."
But were they friends, more than friends, or less than friends?  She
couldn't decide so she made another deletion in favor of "--yours
intractably, Gabriele."

  P. S. Cold sores be dammed should a person keep his/her own
tongue in the happy domicile of his/her own mouth

  P.S.S. (not piss even if it pisses you off, and I hope it doesnOt)
Do you remember me mentioning the man with an unmemorable name who
wired me that money for my plane ticket?  Well, of course I paid him
back on the first day with interest (a 50 percent Gabriele gratuity),
but a funny thing happened.  I married him.  Don't worry though. It
means little beyond spilled ink. So, what then does it mean? It means
what? It means that a child needs the specious illusion of permanency
in family and an adult needs a friendship on paper that states a
committed level of consistency beyond casual friendship. If women
could sign an equivalent document I'd sign one with you, my beloved
Hilda. Both of you are important to me in your own distinct ways.

She remembered an incident from a few days ago:

"Why should this be any different: this Unmemorable Russian guy,
Michael, me, and even the favored one. You push us aside like crumbs on
a table."

She laughed. "Crumbs you are not; and there has never been what
you claim as the favored one unless it is you."

"That's a lie."

"No, it isn't. You've always said he is nicer than you so sometimes
it is more pleasant to be with those who arenOt so temperamental.  But
you are my son, and you are the favored one."

"OHave always.O You havenOt seen me for two years so how would you

"At least you used to admit that he was nicer than you are."

"You often took the favored one places."

"To the grocery store to pick out cereal and pop tarts.  Unlike you
he would never grab an item of canned food that was stacked like a
pyramid.  He would never cause an avalanche in a grocery store. I never
had to worry about taking him anyplace."

"And Rita/Lily Lily/Rita?"

"Was that a question? What about her?"

"Yes, what about her?"

She could have said, "She was too crazy" or "She was too far way"
but she opted for the largest acknowledgement of what seemed to her to
be true.  "I did care about her but I guess I did sweep her under her
welcome mat."

Chapter 39

You are the favored one:  this was what she had told her son.  But
the mendacity, now reverberating in memory, seemed more spurious than it
had two weeks earlier when she had articulated it sotto voce within the
wisps of her breath.  Still it was true in the sense that most things
were true in a sense, for in her malaise on that cold Christmas morning,
shuddering before a vapid wall of canvas, she guessed that multifarious
and antithetical points to propositions of truth were all there was.

A child, even this one, was a sensitive creature whom she, an
adult, needed to emphasize certain points to while tiptoeing away from
others.  But, she argued in solitary inward dialogues within herself,
which she found to be the most engaging form of companionship, that did
not necessarily mean that her quiet tiptoeing prevarications were lies.

With words as the most viable means of projecting a given concept of
one mind onto another and with them having to permeate the dense grey
matter, unchanged, through the hard surface of experience and
preference, it was a wonder that misunderstandings did not rule fully in
all human concerns.  A small lie here and there in place of
misunderstood truth, she argued, was the expedient of presidents and
kings.  Even this Texan hick, George Jr., who seemed to her as abhorrent
as a president was likely to become, was marginally justified in
misleading the American populace the way she had been forced to deviate
from truth for the sake of her son.  The apocryphal president could not
have averred his wish to contrive a war against any rogue state for any
random reason even though that was his intention.  He could not have
declared that North Korea, the desired bombing target for setting this
example of what hegemony could do, had been spared from war by SeoulOs
proximity to the DMZ and that Iraq had been chosen to be the favored
ersatz.  He needed an imminent threat to sell his war:  these elusive
weapons of mass destruction, which could always be argued as "out
there," present but obscure.

Just as she could not have admitted to Nathaniel that Rick had been
the favored one all along, now she was still reluctant to admit to
herself that on that night when she brought him home she had fallen into
such a deep depression.  Only in her sleep were fictional distortions of
this mortification sometimes coerced onto her memory.  And every time
that this happened she would wake up, get out of bed, and immediately
engage herself in sundry activities which busy people devised to fortify
themselves from wild, disturbing thoughts that they were not able to
successfully corral (of course always going to the bathroom first but
you donOt really need to know those specifics, do you?) Among them would
be attempting to bake edible cookies and cakes which still had the hope
of ingratiating herself to her son without making the obdurate Gabriele
look repentant.  Unorthodox she might be, the former whore, witch, and
child deserter with her cookie stained hands, but she was not a
propitiatory type.  After considering the pros and cons of a given issue
in its probable impact on others she executed her decisions as she
should and never revisited them repentantly.

No one had witnessed her behavior at the blighted homecoming and
yet she was mortified by her conduct all the same:  the quick turning
off of the engine; the turning of the house key to barricade herself
from the lugubrious stillness of the car so that she might depart into
the intimacy of ideas in a book read under the sheets; watching
Nathaniel, an icy stranger to her, turn on lights in his descent into
the pit of his bedroom; sensing an effete adumbration of herself,
detached from her body, as it ascended the staircase to her bedroom
pulling along a body that was as weak as an old woman; and then
lifelessly collapsing onto her bed still in this out-of-body sensation.

Inanimate being that she was, for a minute she found peace.  But
then the next moment she was a petrous rural landscape shaking from a
tremor and then there was this inexplicable tsunami of tears slapping
against the rubble of her cheeks.  She weltered her face in a pillow on
her bed in the hope of suffocating her sobs and burying her tears that
were shed for the loss of the favored son who had not come from her womb
and from being hated by the other one who was supposed to be her and yet

The melancholy that had overtaken her, replicated itself in the
cracks of her rocks, and for a time fed off her tears, lived even when
the water was exhausted.  For a couple hours after her tears were all
used up the thought that she hadnOt even been allowed to see Rick for a
few minutes continued to torture her as she lay immobile on her bed.
But at last she was able to summon her strength:  she was able to
repudiate the nadir by attaching herself to objective philosophic wisdom
that rejected any attachment to earthly ephemeral creatures in this
mixing and diluting of herself.

Was the Earth a good place?  For the species, man, who suffered the
least it was for a good many and for most others it was not.  Whether or
not it was an efficacious use of stardust was both unknown and
irrelevant when any assessment was stuck in the confines of changing
perspectives influenced by innumerable combinations of travail and
felicity in each moment of life.  Was she right to have traveled the
world, sought enlightenment, and shunned being in the confines of an
ongoing maternal role and its ensuing responsibilities?  It too was hard
to measure.  Her peregrinations were done quickly but with proper
consideration so it never seemed to her that she should be apologetic.

But certainly she now had a belligerent child on her hands.
Already she was attempting to counter his truancy, smoking habits, his
returning home late into the early evenings, and his refusals to offer
explanations for any of it.  Early into his contempt she assumed that
her failure at explaining herself to him had been the source of the
problem; and so seeking a bridge of minds she once delineated a
biographical profile of herself to him:  her soldier-parentsO
dereliction of duties, the Turkish beheading, the church-going uncle and
male cousins who tried "to finger" her in PeggyOs home, her untoward
will that shunned lies of family, God, and nation, her desire to raise a
son who would be better than the herds of men, and her maternal neglect
so that she might study, contemplate, and travel so as not to neglect
herself.  This only intensified his cold stares and these ideas, her
profile, sank like an irrelevant stone that he threw into a lake.
Eleven days into the reunion with no sign that the contempt would burn
out, in her exasperation she began floggings with a belt the way Michael
had done; and for this pain to both parent and child all that she got
for it was his contrived grinning and her chagrin that she had succumbed
to barbaric, frustrated impulses and bullying savagery.  Still, she
could not be the contrite and effete parent who allowed a childOs
helter-skelter whims and contempt of the parent to tread victoriously
onto the agenda of the day.  Lacking the practice of self-discipline
such a savage, when grown, would justifiably loathe the parent for not
having gained that which would provide him with happiness.

Had she been there for him, fully engaged in motherhood from the
beginning, she believed that his personality would not have been so
recalcitrant and his behavior would not have been so petulant and
flighty.  Maybe, she fretted, her past peregrinations would aggravate
the rest of her days in an opaque fog and malaise of her own making.

Instinct and social norm prompted her cousin in Kansas to become a
statistic in suburbia: to get married immediately after high school; to
have her 2.4 kids and a car in the garage; to daily doubt whether the
0.4 kid would "ever amount to anything;" to return from work at the
cosmetic counter of Dillards to greet her cat with  "Are-U-Hungary" and
laugh at the pseudo nation; and to darn her husbandOs underwear and iron
his socks (items that should have been done with reverse actions).

Really Gabriele knew nothing about this cousin of hers.  For her
own agenda she continually relegated her to a theory.  She enjoyed the
caprice, which if not true of her cousin (and it probably was), was true
of this bored housewifey type.  And she wondered if this vaguely
remembered woman might right now be opening the refrigerator door and
envisaging probable dates of her demise N sometimes right side up and
sometimes upside down N printed on milk cartons; who, finding her
conversations with her spouse stale was nonetheless considering them an
indispensable part of the routine of her perfunctory movements; and who
was probably returning from the kitchen to watch most of the Rosanne or
Cosby show before collapsing into sleep.  Gabriele imagined that each
night this cousin would wake up and realize that it was time to go to
bed so that she could repeat the dayOs failure again.  The true reality
of her cousinOs felicity or estranged plight was not anything Gabriele
knew or cared to know.  It seemed an apposite probability and this was
the only thing about her that Gabriele cared to contemplate.

So sitting in her studio (now with the prostitute paintings of the
"Women at Work" series of the burgeoning Thai artist, Nawin Biadklang,
on her walls N paintings that she had put away and forgotten following
her involvement with Michael), she painted her cousin, albeit of a
Mexican appearance and something more like a mannequin than a human
being, while her thoughts continued to run rampant.

Dream after dream; illusion upon illusion; everyone was forced to
play the game of musical chairs in which the people changed as well as
the chairs but they all pretended that it was not happening N that
everyone was stable and on stable ground.  She did not want to rebel
against the game.  It was the indelible rules of nature thrust on man
(this thing called change), and for most it was instrumental to their
evolvement.  Most people would be worse than the complacent and mostly
non-changeable rock of her Aunt Peggy unless shaken up a bit.

"WhatOs OdeadO mean?" Nathaniel had asked on that inauspicious day
years ago when Michael had run over the neighborOs child in the trailer
park N one of many odd coincidences that had engendered their union.  It
was a day that was as inauspicious as having given birth to Nathaniel in
the first Gulf War and then returning to him in the sequel.
Inauspicious events often seemed as a plan to rock the baby out of his
cradle and then as now she vaguely sensed that something akin to doom
would one day toss her from this bearable normalcy of a new husband and
an old son that she seemed to return to like all other lost and clinging
females.  Was this malevolent rocker of the babyOs body and soul God?
Well, it certainly was not the gentle parental god devised by religion
but there was indeed some coercer of change like AristotleOs concept of
god without the god.

"Non-being.  We wear our clothes for a time.  Then they unravel and
are made into something different."

"And heaven?"

"God, no! N a make believe story for reality dodgers.  When you
play dodge ball you run away from being hit by the ball, donOt you?  It
is the same for heaven believers.  The neighbor boy, I am dreadfully
sorry to say, is dead as a doornail and his body and brain are
unraveling.  You donOt need to think twice about it.  Trust me on this
one.  But if that is too much reality to swallow, and it is for almost
everyone I guess, it is better to live in your own lie than live in
someone elseOs.  What if we were to say that he is like a beautiful leaf
skidding on the sidewalk because of a breeze; but he is not the leaf
anymore but the breeze.  You can feel him but you will never see him
againEunless N "

"Unless what?"

"A possibility out of science but seeming as magical to us in our
primitive time."

"WitchesO magic?"

"No, superstitions and hocus pocus arenOt in our lexicon.  We are
beyond that.  EinsteinOs idea that time is relativeEAnyhow, we will be
wind long before a means of traveling or transporting ourselves near the
speed of light is devised."

Lost in all these thoughts she added onto the canvas a bit of
vermilion, a color that may or may not have been that of the old Soviet
flag, now fading from collective memory, but was the color of the
bathrobe and lingerie that she was now wearing to appeal to his leftist
tendencies.  She stuffed some chewing tobacco into her mouth and
entertained whimsical ideas of him, her husband.  She and the man with
the unmemorable name, as she still called him (sometimes Andrew), would
in time live in different places.  They would not be separated in the
traditional sense of indifference or economic necessity but by the two
having their own interests (he undoubtedly having a job as a UN official
if not assistant to the Secretary General within five or six years).
They would live separately because they had been born into the world
separately.  Their union, their contract, would not be the floundering
neediness of two minds who feared standing alone to face mortality in
oneOs thoughts nor would it be like American soldiers guarding Iraqi oil
pipelines N the jealous sentinels over the source of a dopamine rush,
that lover who gave to many their only defining component of themselves.
It would be N she stopped herself not knowing what it would be.  She was
not sure whether or not to call such a freakish thing a marriage.  If
she had used this man by marrying him in the hope that he would be a
male role model for her son wouldnOt she be the same as one of the
solipsistic herd.  She hoped that her actions were not as calculating as

Putting away her paints, she then went into the bathroom to fall
like a child through specious mountains and plains of crackling soap
bubbles.  There she would allow the steam to relax her to minimal
consciousness of a self-contained Nirvana that could be gained in
virtually no other way than in the bathtub.  But as the hot water was
falling into the tub filling it into a lake she changed her mind, turned
off the tab, and went to him to seek Nirvana down and dirty.

Riveted in the carnal skin friction of sexual gluttony for the meat
of human flesh, youth, and beauty, she climaxed with her man; and free N
totally free of all gnawing miscellaneous hungers outside of needing to
urinate N the couple smoked marijuana on the bed to elongate their
brief, ethereal stay.  They were silently watching clouds of smoke
stretch out like steamers of confetti until silence broke like an old
womanOs hip.

He said, "I might get this one.  It would be on a temporary basis N
just the extra sections that donOt have teachers N I guess benefits and
full time status after probation if someone resigns N little pay now.
But maybe I should just stay here until I exhaust my possibilities."

She sensed how the petty and the mundane in the personal domain
interfered, if not totally countered, any fulfillment of intimacy.  This
vexed her conceptualization of life; but for she who was so amused by
grave ideas it was just one more intriguing fact to contemplate.  "ItOs
all exhausted," she at last responded.  "ThereOs nothing much here.
YouOve gone to the first job interview at City College.  You might as
well see it through the second.  Obviously they are interested in you if
they want you to be interviewed twice.  ItOs up to you but if it were me
I would put my oars in the first wave that comes along."

"Yes, maybe."

"Out of curiosity, IOve been wondering why you again made
reservations in that hotel where the bellboys are the rats."

"Because hotels arenOt cheap anywhere in New York City except
exceptional ones"

"Exceptional?  I was there, man N one glorious night.  Okay,
marginally better than back packer guest houses in Bangkok and Jakarta
with bare bunk mattresses and table fans without any tables in something
less than closets.  This oneOs more of a spacious closet --American
style for beggars and Bolsheviks."  She knew that her bantering had some
snobbishness in it as if she had never lived in a tiny little room with
a crock-pot on the floor in Tijuana.  She noted how perception was
ensconced in oneOs environment and lifestyle and that an ensconced thing
became the thing it was ensconced in.  Even now, naked like she was,
ostentatious diamond earrings bounced from her earlobesNan extreme
pendulum shift from the days of painting caricatures for extra pesos in
the pure dirt colonias and the man made waste of downtown "centro"
Tijuana (TJ).

"IOve offered to give you N lend you, however you care to think of
it N any money you need for expenses in the Big Apple."

"Thanks but I really didnOt mind that room we stayed in last time."

"Okay," she sighed and threw up her hands. "But I canOt see how
that is possible."

"A little possible N like the sign in the bathroom.  Remember?  It
said, ODear guests, detergent harms the environment by going down the
drain and ultimately killing the sea life of our oceans.  Use fewer
towels.O  The message is warm like being with a beautiful woman."  His
mouth dived into her neck like a toothless vampire.

"God, I have married an imbecile," said Gabriele.  She giggled in
the sexual giddiness of a woman when intimate with a man; and yet
thinking that the body was merely the crucible of feelings, and that
thoughts, a refined and distancing appraisal of reality, were
nonetheless feelings in origin, and that this was all there was.

"None of that baloney would work with me.  I would only scoff at it
N capitalists caring about the fishies of the sea.  Give me a break!
Give me brutal honesty anytime rather than tactics like this.  If a
business is honest, I might continue my patronage regardless of the type
of service they provide or, in this case, the type of rat hole it
isNhonesty being in such short supply in the world that when someone
gives it to meNeven in rude dosesNI am grateful for it.  They would just
need to say, "You wasteful fucks, we are niggardly corporate bastards
eager to hoard any red cent we can get our hands on.  Please note that
we have a one shower a day policy here.  Extra showers will incur extra
charges should we see dripping from the shower nozzle.  That being said,
you will see that there are fewer towels on the rack.  DonOt make phone
calls to the front desk demanding more towels and do not bribe cleaning
ladies or make any sexual advances toward them.  If you slyly take an
extra shower at 2 a.m. or such ungodly times you will have to dry your
wet butts by hanging them out the window.O  Now if they conveyed this

They heard two shells of petrous, ice-glazed snow simultaneously
strike into a lower part of the faade of the house unlike a one-time
thud of a bird or the distinct sounds of thawing ice when falling from
the roof and gutter.  The man with the unmemorable name got up, drew the
curtain, and opened the window.  Then he, the nude, dangled there
staring at his stepson who sat on a limb in a tree that was a hundred
yards from the house.  The boy was holding a brassiere as his slingshot.

As more of a recurrent feeling rather than a philosophic framework,
which he had constructed for himself on that silent car ride from
SharonOs home to his own, he believed that subtle inconclusive looks
could help him extort that which he knew could never be gained in
compensation, and that by it being something that could never be
compensated and extorting it all the same, he had found the means to
achieve power. Without really thinking so much as feeling it, for the
past two weeks there was this notion that subtle looks without hostile
words would make the hated propitiate to him with expensive gifts or at
least a willingness to please him whereas to hate a person with the more
conclusive medium of words would make the anathema hate him, and hate
was a weapon that he did not care to hand over to his enemies.  He cared
to keep it in his domain.

The circumstances behind the slingshot were a peculiar thing:
apprehension about knocking on their bedroom door for fear that his
knocking would become pounding which might cause them to withhold his
gifts; still early and no movement from above, the discarded black
sheep, the piqued shadow, the cast away reunited with she who cast him
out, leaving the clock and going into the yard to waste some time; the
hunting of birds with a bb gun, feeling bored, and in places stomping
out the obscene whiteness of the snow by grating it black, ever so
often, with the heel of a boot; the return to the kitchen to again watch
the incessantly slow turn of the second hand of the clock; still no
sounds from above so deciding to burn bacon and to turn down the furnace
in the hope of smoking or freezing them out; the pacing around a
gigantic Christmas tree barren of gifts underneath;  and  then going
into one of  the bathrooms.  Frustrated while "taking a leak" it was
there that the brassier hanging on the wall had seemed like an
unpatented snow boomerang there to show his misogyny.

"Comrade Sangfroid?" yelled the man into the tree.  "What do you

The boy put his hands around his mouth like a megaphone to
facilitate the sound.  "The queen of Antarctica, Comrade," he said.
"Her gifts."

"Comrade of crude weapons," yelled the man.  His voice was
indistinct and garbled by the cough of saliva having rushed down his
throat in his laughter.  "Why shoot they who give freely?"

Gabriele nudged herself between the man and the window, dangling
hers as the man did his.  She saw the boy and the bra there at a bit of
a distance.  "Yes?" she yelled.  She was amused, puzzled, and a little
annoyed by the sight.  She waited for words from a specimen unwilling to
give them.  Obviously, she noted to herself, smirking and laughter at
the absurdity of talking to oneOs nude parents one Christmas morning
from a tree would have been a natural proclivity for such a refreshingly
or embarrassingly peculiar situation; but this smirking seemed a calm
sadistic enjoyment of what she believed to seem to him as perverse.  An
enjoyment of the perverse seemed to drool in all orifices and he stared
at them with virulent intensity.  DidnOt those eyes say, "What are you
doing with that whore?"  DidnOt it bang around his mouth and peek
loosely from his lips?  She did not know.  No, she told herself, this
idea was perverse.  Her imagination was a viral infection on her sound
judgments and she told herself that she should be ashamed of her

On this branch he once sat to gain a reprieve from Sharon and Rick
and to make the former tenants of the house uncomfortable his composure
was unperturbed.  Having lived in GabrieleOs experiment once before, it
was not new to him now.  To be the specimen of her scrutinizing gaze was
once an ossified aspect of his daily existence.  Once the specifics of
what it was like to be her son had been forgotten for a generalized
feeling of revulsion; but now that he was here the forgetting was being
forgotten and the revulsion was replaced by the need to adapt and thrive
within his circumstances.  Not wishing to provoke her to hate him, he
put the brazier in his coat pocket and then descended from the tree.

And like any goddess from Hera to Athena she knew the sweet venom
of empathy, could see the corroding batteries of Her specimenOs heart
without wincing, and would have stared that way indefatigably until he
at last fell from the tree.  But once he absconded she just returned to
her side of the bed.  She wanted to cry mutely into the pillow but her
man was there so she stoically absconded into a book on Asian owls.

Chapter 40

Without much regard as to where he should sit, he just sat.  It was
a more remote spot in Seoul Grand Park that seemed to be directly under
a kite slapped by distant winds.  For he who sought to circumvent the
scrutiny of others to pursue his strange stern ruminations his only wish
was to be seated in solitude; and not having it, he accepted a more
remote variation. Frustrated by his writing and unable to believe that
he was doing anything but spinning around in his head, he tried to relax
in the sunlight and within a Valium of smells such as the very dirt and
weeds beneath him.  He stared at the kite and the peculiar shaped clouds
emerging into the sky until becoming bored with both, he turned to the
ground.  Withdrawn into nature and himself, he felt his energy and peace
of mind begin to replenish.  It fluttered weakly as the gray moth that
he was watching; and it seemed to him that this spasm of optimism was as
lithe as a soul was capable of being were one to have such a thing
instead of damnable memories and words like walls in a maze of the mind
which deluded one into thinking that he was advancing to someplace or

He imagined himself at a convocation of words in which he
designated where each word should sit within the weeds and clumps of
dirt.  He imagined that when he did not like their arrangement, or their
bickering amongst themselves, each obsequious word eagerly got up and
changed to a different seat of his choosing with the snap of his fingers
unlike their real obstinate and disgruntled nature; and when he said
their names numerically according to their rows an invocation of truth
would ensue.  The guidebook, written by the subconscious, would have
enough veracity to be a prototype for they who also squatted on the
outskirts of normal existence, or at least a means for him to lose
himself --if not find himselfNthere, within his prose.

Writing granted a purpose, a connection beyond breeding to defy
death for he who would never breed, he who would never be enslaved for
ephemeral "family" and provide for children who were only a womanOs
pleasureNhe who for not breeding had life and breath relegated to
blowing dirt.

The word, "friendship" sat down beside him when the futile meeting
was disbanded and all words were sent home; and as it sat there, it
transformed itself into human form.

"Are you familiar with Camille Saint-Saens N his Macabre Dance?"
said the word.  It was Kim Yang Kwam, the friend who had labeled him as
dirty and had abandoned him for that one touch, that one weak moment of
wanting to celebrate the beauty of the friendship and the beauty of the
man to its fruition.  The two were in the bedroom of that apartment in
Umsong as they had been before, and Yang Kwam was pulling out a CD from
its plastic holder.

"Yes, lovely. I donOt have any from that composer.  LetOs hear it.
He is one of my favorites, you know.  Well, you donOt know.  That is why
it is so special.  What are the chances of you liking it, liking the
cello above other instruments, favoring your philosophic ponderings
above everything, and now telling me that you are okay with me being

"IOm here for you, Shawn."

"IOm living with someone now N maybe not long.  He vitiates his
mind with a Braille version of comics.  They have Braille comics, you
know.  I mean, that is his business but he is so reticent to talk with
anyone and I canOt reach him much of the time.  He is blind and seems
content to cower himself in a corner someplace, pleased to have made it
through another day N well, not always.  I met him in a concert hall.  I
thought he liked classical music.  I guess he does but not as much. He
turns on too much pop music.   I donOt like it.  It gives me headaches."

"It isnOt important."

"Strange that I should be here without him."

"We are where we want to be in all things."

"There was another thing I was scared to tell you. IOm not sure how
N listen, I killed my sister, my father hung himself, and I was struck
down into such a depression like being slapped into a tsunami.  Ever
since this IOve been drifting into the Pacific like a corpse."

"You want to eat salami?"

"No, are you listening to me?"

Yang Kwam chuckled.  Then he looked at Sang Huin with intense
confidence that refracted into the latterOs perceptions as compassion.
"I know that you did not do anything like this.  You are a good person.
You couldnOt do something like that."

"They look on me as if I did kill her, as if I donOt feel guilty
enough without that.  WellEI mean Dad is dead now so--anyhow, he looked
at me like I murdered her. They both did reallyEnot really like a
murderer but guilty of manslaughter, which I guess in a way I am."

"How people look at you is not something that you can control. It
resides in themNwhen not true, it is a need to construct the world a
certain way to remove guilt or pain by projecting it on others.  Your
family did not get the murderer and they blame you.  Families often
split up under such pressure."

"I took her there."

"You didnOt know that he would kill her.  Guilty of being too
Puritanical or too Korean, yes, but that is all."

"I want you as my best friend forever."  There, the daydream, the
word, the connection vanished.

It seemed to him that every few minutes or so there were passersby
(usually as couples if not larger groups with civilization, merger, such
an acute hunger in these pathetic lonely herds) who were more
scrutinizing than all the others.  These passersby saw the stationary
posture of his body bereft of orders from the brain for substantial
movement, and in instantaneous judgment calls, they believed, he
supposed, that his mind was seemingly crazy or dysfunctional.  They
construed him, or he believed that they construed him, as dirty,
unintelligible, and untoward.  To them he was a homeless eyesore, a
madman even if he looked benign from a distance.  After all, seated
alone in a fetal position as he was on a declivity of a hill sparse of
grass, to them, he believed, this proclivity for disoriented stares into
the wind-grazed dirt and inanimate purposelessness was an egregious
aberration of being human.  The fact that no family members were able to
keep him restrained in their homes gave credence to the speculation that
his intractability from psychosis had caused his transience.   Not
eating oneOs kimchee, refusing to pour hot water into a bowl to consume
every grain of leftover rice in an insipid soup, or not taking off oneOs
shoes at the door:  these were slight infractions of cultural norms.
The lone dirt-ridden stranger was prodigiously more repugnant than this
for even retards and mild madmen chose to be clean.  For one of this
ethnicity to wallow his buttocks on a hill of dirt there could be no
other rendered judgment than that his behavior was tantamount to a
rejection of Hanguk civilization completely, which was indeed, to a
Korean, a definite form of madness.

Sang Huin felt their cold Korean scrutiny excoriate him with their
looks.  The long glances and brief stares seemed to burn through his
flesh in thin, cold lasers.  And yet this Korean man, this American,
continued nonetheless to sit on his hill of dirt all alone and, for the
most part, lost in thought.  He was pecking on a tiny virtual keyboard
in his Pocket PC while reading aloud that which he pecked as if he were
not an oddity and all others carried out activities like this.

He read out loud, "He was troubled by that one idea which kept
running through his mind days later: he had given to her a nominal token
of Christmas (a contemptuous one, perhaps, but a present nonetheless)Na
plastic bag full of tea towels, and yet she had not given him anything
in return.  Still he was pleased that he had not mentioned anything
about it and that his attempts at indifference had not degenerated in
weak sulking.

A day later, no longer caring to wonder, as he had, whether these
entitlements would at last be begrudgingly given to him should the walls
of hubris fall from the scaffolding of his eyes, he was tempted to
inveigh her with his contempt and be at last free; but throughout, he
succeeded in occasional smiles and benign albeit reticent exchanges of
ideas when compelled to talk with these parents (parents, or at any rate
imposters claiming to be married, and were for all he knew).  If only,
he told himself, he could continue to control those eyes that he
subconsciously wanted to impale into his mother in a long and
unequivocal stare of hate, then he would have self-mastery and power.

Without really thinking about all these specifics so much, he felt
the need to restrain himself to multi-interpretable stares that would be
doors of opaque translucency sealing off the fortress of his ideas while
allowing shadows to permeate outward.  Still, keeping the door shut was
a hard thing to do."

Thoughts of his own mother kept intruding on Sang HuinOs work:  the
mother/daughter sorority of Cathy and June (the American names that his
mother and sister gave themselves); cacophonous, cryptic collusion of
conversation that the two Korean sorority sisters had aside with each
other in that damnable Hanguk-mal; the mother who valued her tree
planting and property ownership with her husband as much as these
feminine confidences with her daughter while he was supposed to be quiet
as a mouse at home and especially in every public place so that she
would not be ashamed of him; this woman who incessantly took him to one
hospital after another seeking to have more than manageable ailments and
who sat him on bleachers while the family went to JuneOs basketball

"June" gave the Korean family a name, and the parents could now
talk about their daughter and be part of the Caucasian club.  But sick
as he sometimes was, he gave them nothing and for it they relegated him
to shadows N to shadows.

He thought of his childhood asthma.  His father had the perception
that the enervating condition of asthma emasculated the son to the point
of making him "good for nothing."  It was only a perception but no demon
was harder to exorcise than perception.  Philistines had feelings
embedded harder than teeth:  prejudices that were both intolerable and

But then he checked himself and halted his thoughts about dead
people and dead happenings.  His thoughts focused on that journalist
whom he had met weeks earlier at the sports stadium.  "This guy could be
the perfect one and yet I have brushed him asideNI donOt know why."  He
pondered some more.  "But I am involved with Saeng Seob and one doesnOt
just use someone until a better prospect arrives."  This was his
argument to himself made more to excuse his social ineptness than

His queer relations were not affable and gay as withdrawn, anti-
social, and hell bound in being bedazzled in shadows as he was.
Ensconced cleanly from mixing thoughts with the physical realm it was
shadows of texture he sought in saunas and the bathroom of the dirty
movie theatre near Pagoda Park in Chongno Sam Ga. Clean of words, no
hurt would ensue. The dirty movie theatre showed only normal R-rated
films and sexual activity was restricted to bathroom stalls.  Had it
been otherwise it would have even seemed a major aberration to the queer
folk there.  The queer folk of Korea were Koreans too and no one was
more conservative with cultural traditions than a Korean.  The theatre
people consciously acknowledged sex in the seats as illegal and morally
repugnant albeit reprehensibly desired.  "I could never do that to him."
His thoughts were of course about Saeng Seob.  "As long as he wants the
relationship it will be there for him.  I am many things but N" He was
about to think, "but I donOt hurt vulnerable people" but he checked his
thoughts with the memory of his sister and how he had coerced his
girlfriend into having an abortion.  He told himself that to claim that
he would always be there for the hurting and the vulnerable lacked

"He began to have a recurrent nightmare of sorts, replete in twisted
skeletal boughs; and there he saw something like himself in adult form
trying to glean movements of lissome shadows through the crevices around
a board that went over one window.  Boards were nailed over all windows
and entrances in the condemned building that had been his home.  Still,
despite the sunrays of early morning impaling through the thickets of
branches and into his eyes, he could see the copulative interlinking of
shadows distinctly even though he could not see the forms projecting the
shadows because they had long ago turned into wind.  He shot a snowball
and a sound of an owl screeching towards the woods flew past him if not
the form of the bird itself.  He noted how strange it was that the only
snow was that on the tree and all other parts of his motherOs acreage
were part of the verdure of early summer.

OMy little comrade,O said the man to the boy although he was not a
man any longer but more like the murky translucency of a fog.  As he
flew near the tree what was left of the old leaves rustled and
flattened.  OThe Bolsheviks have won.  You can go ahead and leave
Petrograd and return home to your wives.'

OComrade,O Nathaniel said, OI have no wives and I donOt want to
abandon my platoon.O

OThe war is over.  Everyone is dead and gone.  They have been so for
some time N for years.  YouOve done a find job, Comrade. Now go in

OI know who you are but N O He swallowed deeply.  OI donOt know what
you are.O

OThe opposite of what I was I suppose.  When you figure out what
life is go 180 degrees counter to it and there you will be at death.  It
isnOt all that much different N just different corners of the block.O

OYes, I believe so Comrade Stalin.O

OComrade Trotsky.O

OYes, Comrade.  Comrade Trotsky.  Comrade Trotsky, I fear that the
Queen of Antarctica, angered at my conquering abilities of her homeland,
will blockade all supplies and let me perish out here with no

'Well, Adagio, at last here the two of us are all alone as you have
always wanted it, as you have dreamed it even if it is so late and with
a ghost...quality time we should have had more of if I hadn't been so
preoccupied with trying to understand this marriage of mine with a woman
who did not want to live with me.  I think that she wanted me to be
closer to you but how she thought that was possible with a husband and
wife having separate lives is difficult to understand.  She is difficult
to understand but that is no excuse for not forgiving her.  We all
deserve to be forgiven.  All humans deserve that, Adagio.  Why can't you
forgive her?'

'Because I hate her!'

'Hate?  Here you are as a grown man and yet you sit in those
branches as if nothing has changed.  A
few sharp movements and you will fall off with the limbs that once
cradled the sport of a boy.  You spied on us a lot in those branches, if
you remember.  But now there is nothing to spy on.  The house is old and
in decay.  Boards are nailed over the windows.  The naked dance of a man
with his wife that you thought was so intriguing has ended.  The
partners are separated and have withdrawn--one into old age to begin her
own descent to the earth and me visiting you on top of a tree because of
a Siberian wind happening to settle me here.  Nothing is there now so
there is nothing to hate.  What possibly can you see up there at this

'I see what IOve always seen:  shadows.  Plenty of shadowsNyours,
hers, all the men she was with.'  He was meaning love making in its
full-animated obscenity of interlinked private parts and hedonism, the
fundamentals of life."

Then in dreams like this he would wake up, think of this all too
familiar presence, and doubt if she were his mother at all.  As far as
he knew she could just be an imposter after the other oneOs
disappearance.  And on his pillow he would again think about the
flashlight in the cave and the hotdog in the bun jokes that he was
beginning to hear in the locker rooms of adolescent and pre-adolescent
boys.  Precocious as he was in firsthand knowledge of some sexual issues
he was still curious about more normal arenas.

Sang Huin told himself that incessantly telling himself things
within the contemplation of his creation was a bit strange; that the
facile, tangible thrusts of decadent titillation that he gained briefly
in the shadows of the dark corridors of saunas instead of more tangible
long-term relationships--even with their intangible emotions and
invisible bridges of minds--was stranger yet; but strangest of all was
how instead of being with a girlfriend on a roller coaster less than a
kilometer away, he just stayed on his hill of dirt like any transient,
the luftmensch that he was.  He looked at his feet, then the dark
approach of a mass of clouds and the kite.  One chose any spot to sit in
based upon comfort and security, and to him remoteness was both.  Like
his defunct father, who often sat silently in front of the Weather
Channel, using this favored television station to facilitate a comatose
withdraw after his daughterOs death, so he watched the kite which seemed
like a piece of himself drifting further and further into the
unobtainable. Its erratic movements and the emergence of dark clouds
with peculiar shapes seemed like a wordless oracle.

OFor six long months she sensed NathanielOs stares as eerie as a
lone plastic cup rolling on an empty pavement in a breeze; and even when
she went to sleep it was with her, often setting her forehead into a
seat as she slept.  For her, sometimes alone in her bed or with her man,
it was an absurd and inexplicable feeling.  But it was easy to repudiate
the indecipherable.  It was easy to be obtuse while pursuing her work
and the occasional sZances with her higher authority, who often played
hide and seek through clouds of the smoke of her burning weed.
Furthermore, hostile glances and reticent words seemed of little
consequence when awakened daily, despite herself, to dwindled resources
dwindling further.

One morning at the dining room table, looking through the newly
arrived mail half blinded in the dappled sunlight, Gabriele saw the
numbers of her worsening fiscal state from a bank statement.  The recent
payments of her property tax and the school enrollment were just larger
costs of myriad that in all, in time, would pillage a life; and her mind
felt numb in the mundane.  Knowing that she had to do something, she
approached the art museum of Albany that afternoon.  The director was
willing enough to exhibit a retrospective of her work with a few new
paintings of Sapporo and Tijuana amalgamated into it all.  The
isolationist declaring her own frigid country of one, the frigid
rationalist watching the movement of instinctual creatures of romance
blowing like bits of trash caught in vortexes of wind, the nighttime
whore advocate as opposed to the billions of daytime whores who espoused
the Puritan work ethic:  she was one of their PT Barnum freaks at the
circus museum and the director welcomed back that which would spark a
bit of public intrigue.  The museum did not expedite it.  Two months of
planning went into the temporary exhibit; and the financial dilemma that
seemed as potentially dire now shot within her more as flares of panic.
What heretofore lacked immediacy became an uppercase word in bold
letters, immediacy, spilling out and hardening as the black ink of the

At last it passed.  And in the bathroom of a purchaser, at a party
in his home, which had been arranged for the celebration of this
singular purchase, the brief honeymoon period for the artist climaxed
with a salient 15-minute copulation against a wall near the toilet.  She
needed this release from worries, this demonic sensation of pleasure
that was the eddy contrary to what was rational. She hoped that it was
that, an eddy, but she knew base instincts were the main force despite
all her rational fortifications.  From time to time she needed to stop
thinking and to run into the storm, allowing any large gust to bang her.

"Can I see you again?" her partner, this black stranger, asked.
Even now that their intimacies had come and gone like all specious mad
frenzies, like the mating of dodo birds, she did not know his name, his
connection to the purchaser, or his purpose at the party unless it were
in having mounted and ridden her.  Did man have a higher purpose than
this?  She had her doubts.

"Give me your address.  I wanna see you again," he reiterated.

"Maybe in corners like this," she responded coldly.  "Beyond that I
think my husband would have problems with it, and most importantly I

"YouOre a sassy one," said this other candyman.  "Squeeze a man of
his juice and leave him dry."  She knew that she was a sassy squeezer
but she was hesitant to say anything for she wanted him marooned in his
own silent realm.  This way she could dress herself in peace and quickly
abscond from sleazy predilections and proclivities that might have made
up the baser components of oneOs nature but were puny in defining
herself.  She wanted to return to her paints in the hope of developing a
template that if not mass-produced at least could speed up her
production.  The time of prolific painting from ideas sketched for so
long had passed.  Now ideas needed to be pinched and coerced to inch

In her ride back home in her Ferrari she postponed the inevitable by
driving further on the interstate than she needed to go.   The goddess
that she was, she liked watching things come and go as well as how she
felt superior in this fancy moving shell.  She thought of a new argument
and she recited it in her mind.  OI have decided to simplify our lives.
What type of an example would I set if I were to cling to things, to
relationships, never knowing myself?  Are all people so at a loss of
identity that they grope in front of anything that has a chance of being
less perishable than themselves?  It is disgusting.  Anyhow, we need
money and IOm selling everything off of value including the house.  We
can live in cardboard shacks or tree houses but we donOt need this type
of shit cluttering up space and time.O  This was what she would say, or
something more simplified that was along these lines."

Frustrated again from not liking his ideas, he forfeited words.
Resting on his hill in the Valium of nature, it was as if he were coming
down from all this spinning around in his own head because of a
heaviness of words coalescing and jelling onto the walls of his brain.
It seemed as though the twirling child were landing dizzy and drunk on
life despite his morbid disposition from memories of family that scooted
like a plastic cup blowing on an empty pavementNabhorrent memories
loving and still as a photograph.

Chapter 41

To the ancient Egyptians man died each night in this void
absent of the sun god and then each morning was resurrected in daybreak.
She thought of this; and it seemed to her as she was driving home at 3
a.m., hair blowing and mind mesmerized in prevailing darkness, that this
particular myth was as all religious balderdash that justified one
egregious proclivity or another in the natural state.  In Christianity
this was myriad:  everything from manOs god-given dominion over animals
in any arbitrary whim to the LordOs omnipotent power to part the Nile
one moment and turn someone to stone the next (indiscriminate aiding of
some and annihilating others).  As the deliverer who cared so much about
individual man as to intrusively know the amount of hair strands on each
head He was the perfect god; and his conspicuous absence or non-
involvement on 9-11 and countless other occasions of inhumanity of man
to man was merely his allowing free will to command human affairs.

The ancient and relatively forgotten myth of the Egyptians
explained manOs mysterious absconding from the night in seven or eight
hours of sleep as a partial death when apart from the vanquished sun.
Its innocence had charmed her for years, but now it just seemed as one
more vapid fable with no redeeming qualities.  Going home circuitously,
the idea of sleeping away one more night seemed as a reprehensible
closing of oneOs eyes to the nightOs gilded silence.  Long hours of
atavistic sleep to keep the body still and hidden from barely visible
predators had been utile in prehistory but now it was an anachronistic
vestige of adaptation.  Thwarting nocturnal consciousness of this
fragile animal, man, sleep inadvertently obstructed an appreciation for
all that was black N and she did want to appreciate all that was black.

Outside of bubbling in champagne and a bit of public relations to
secure a sale what had this party been, she asked herself, unless it
were to reclaim the night; and what had this bathroom rendezvous been
but to cease to abscond from that which was black?  She laughed at her
joke, which she mumbled aloud to herself.  Half drunk, she was
inexplicably pleased with herself.  She told herself that her adulterous
tryst with this twenty minute black friend had been her refutation
against the notion of ugly-bodied darkness.  She inanely told herself
that by brushing naked against his skin this making herself one with
what was black had made the intimacy a higher accomplishment than mere
banging.  She was even amused by how easily amused she was in her self-
containment in the car.  For her, happiness was not dependent on
external playmates although something vaguely similar to happiness was
sometimes facilitated by them.

There was nothing like back roads so bare of automobiles.  Driving
made her feel as if she owned the night with the wide stretch of her
headlights that were only deferentially dimmed at the encroachment of
other automobiles on her terrain.  She loved the peace and the vastness
of these strips of road in the heart of unpretentious night; and if she
had her way about it the universe would be purely black without the
tawdry dappling of stars.  It dawned on her that moving through night at
sixty miles per hour her very movement was in opposition to what was
splendid in the night.  If Aristotle were right in saying that happiness
was greatest in contemplating this non-changeable entity that had tossed
the chemicals of inchoate matter, then cloistered artists, philosophers,
and other contemplatives would be the dominant force on the planet.  If
contemplation were the highest pleasure in life wouldnOt her canvas be
more eagerly sought than her hedonistic flings or that which she was now
pursuing:  a sense of freedom by sipping a beer and riding around in a
Ferrari.  Being blown in all directions from the open windows of her
car, she was half tempted to drive all the way into arctic Canada
instead of returning to the odious smells of her paintNchemicals that
were no doubt carcinogens if the nose were to express its opinion on the
matterNpaint once vibrant in her perceptions but now the mental strain
of attempting to reestablish success.

She again contemplated the night.  If only man had not had this
fear of being eaten, sleep, if it were needed at all would be merely
sporadic naps for the restoration of energy instead of this long
withdrawal from the black of night.  Then she thought about this twenty
minute chocolate candyman, whom she named as Candyman II  (Roman
numerals giving him a sense of eminence). She told herself that she
should have made him withdraw before being allowed to climax within her.
He had worn a condom but it was doubtful that condoms were meant to
stretch so far or be unbreakable when the long black horn was impaling
with such force.  How would she know whether or not it had ruptured?
She would only know with the advent of symptoms from AIDS, syphilis,
gonorrhea, and that whole list of undesirables.

She and her husband had an "open" relationship so long as neither
one of them fell in love with someone else but she didnOt want to die
for the periodic cravings of sex and more importantly she did not want
to harm her husband with a lethal touch.  Like a postulant at a convent,
she might well have relinquished such meretricious spells of lust months
ago had she not held two opinions in favor of this "open relationship"
remaining such.  This sauntering away from domestic life always brought
newness to marital vows upon oneOs return; and being shaken up in
promiscuous rendezvous made the brain more lithe in generating ideas.
Ever so often a woman needed to remove a man like her dirty panties for
the required laundering.  Ever so often a woman needed to put on some
fresh panties when allowing the old ones to spin around in the wash.  It
was an ablution in a senseNthis running barefoot in dirty fields to
exorcise her demons of passion.  When the exercise or exorcism was
completed it allowed for domestic life there in its small space
demarcated within drab walls.  Sordid nights were a bit like
wallpapering anew the old shack.  But she did not think about the
primary motivations for her adultery: the wish to not cling to this
concept of a relationship as if it were an actual reality, the wish to
debunk this notion of permanence in a mutable world, and that
desperation to repudiate her vulnerability as one who would like to
cling to such things, to cling to her man.

GuiltEthere was noneNnot even when arriving at the house.  She was,
of course, surprised to see her manOs car parked in the drive but it was
not a catalyst of guilt per se.  While the solitary newlywed was getting
out of her car she considered a half imagined societal measurement of
her actions.  It was from it that there was a mordant gnawing within
that might be labeled as compunction.  She doubted it at first, but then
why should she doubt?  She was not totally immune to others.  As much as
she might claim that feelings were her own self-manufactured car that
she drove around in, she would be a veritable lunatic were she to have
feelings that were little else than her own imagined whims.  Also her
art would not pertain to anyone if she were not to some degree a product
of her world, as repugnant as that thought was to her.

As she stepped into the parlor the compunction exacerbated
exponentially.  Seeking to be unperturbed by conscience, she told
herself that having sex with a hundred men in a hundred days was no
different than being loyal to one spouse for a hundred and some odd
days.  She argued that one behavior was no more or less slutty than the
other.  It was true in a rational context; but on the other hand sexual
loyalty was a way of discerning this feeling-based abstraction of a
relationship which otherwise would diffuse as a cloud of smoke.  She
went into the family room where she saw a light ("family" seeming a
misnomer since she doubted that there was such a thing).

"Hey!  You are here!" she called as she went through a hallway to
this room where her husband and son were standing at different sides of
a billiard table.  Obviously they were there to play against each other
but seemingly it was as if they were together brandishing their cues,
their phallic sticks, which would be used for her flagellation.  As
titillation and inebriation were falling flat with each passing moment,
so her smile at imagining her forthcoming beating was momentary.

"What are you smiling at?" the man with the unmemorable name asked.

"Nothing."  Acerbic guilt was bubbling within her.

"I decided to come back this weekend," the man said.

"What a surprise.  Grading completed?"

"Some of it. I guess you are okay.  Why is your hair this way?
WhatOs the word?"  He said something in Russian that she did not

"Disheveled.   In the car-- windows down, me blowing in the wind.
Guess I look a mess.  DonOt worry.  I wasnOt in an accident."

"Okay, IOm not.  I wasnOt."

"Seems that a late night pool game has stretched into early
morning," she said.  There was no response so she feigned a beautiful
wide smile as she slouched into a vinyl couch --vinyl like that she had
withdrawn into when parting from NathanielOs father with his dividing
cells within herNcells that were either cancerous or salubrious
divisions although now it was perhaps too early to predict which or the
denouement of this dabbled experiment.  "DonOt you think it is a little
bit late for my two boys to be playing billiards like they are at a
poker party?"

"No, I donOt Gabriele; and do you want me to tell you why?"

"Please.  More than anything else on the planet, I live for it."

"Both of us had to do something while we waited and waited for you,
didnOt we?  We couldnOt stare at the door all night.  Folk dancing to
balalaika music seemed out of place and we didnOt know the phone numbers
of hospital morgues to see if you checked in with your bags."

She chortled.  "Uh oh, facetious and angry.  Looks like IOve been
grounded and will have the car keys taken away."  But grave memories
were flung into her consciousness that sobered her frivolity: she
remembered being in Japan waiting for Michael to return from his dates
with Kato. Sitting on her futon on the tatami of her living room, she
would blow into the shakuhachi, that wailing instrument that was the
only thing she could communicate with in a grief so tacit and

"Do you want me to not care?"

"Huh?"  She was recovering from damnable memories that were running
over her the way swathes of the EarthOs hardened vomit, continents,
moved, reshaped themselves, and demarcated anew its body of water.  Then
it occurred to her what he said.  "Sorry.  I thank you for caring.  I
really do.  You are a good guy."

"You left your son here all alone."

"Are you kidding? Hardly that!  After hearing from Peggy about his
penchant for arson, I wouldnOt be that crazy.  Where is the babysitter,

"I didnOt like her so I got rid of her," said the boy.   "I fired
her but I paid her off first."

"With what?"

As she waited for him to speak she saw him scratch one of his
earlobes.  From this she imagined him saying that he paid the babysitter
with money he made from selling earrings like the ones she was wearing.
Then, in the daydream, she demanded to know whether or not he had been
pilfering bits of her jewelry all along and what he did with the money
once he sold them; but in the daydream he did not answer either question
leaving inconclusive speculation to run rife.

But she told herself that the daydream had no significance.  Once
in February when not able to find various pairs of earrings and blaming
herself for having lost them somewhere between Tokyo to Tijuana she had
engaged herself in comic anecdotes of the boy sneaking into her bedroom
in leather gloves and pajamas so that he might mail some of her jewelry
to Hispanic Betty before ValentineOs Day.  She told herself that this
daydream was merely the rebounding of her dismissed caprices.  And yet
she couldnOt help wondering if this particular daydream was, as Freud
would say, a resurfacing of repressed fears, unwanted knowledge, or
strong convictions about a given matter of importance.

She thought about how little of a humanOs mercurial life was
grounded in the present moment: an athlete was in the rush of his
adrenalin, a conversation consisted of past events and future
expectations, and a current event was impinged by pertinent hunches
exhumed from the subconscious in daydreams.  Even if she were to have
conclusive knowledge about her sonOs actions throughout each and every
day, and even if she were to find him as innocent as a babe, the correct
way of dealing with him would still be guesswork.  Such was the
peculiarity of the human condition.

"With Monopoly money," he chuckled

"With what?" she repeated irascibly.

" Twenty bucks out of my allowance money.  Are you going to take my
head off for that?"

"For twenty bucks, never.  Thirty, maybe."  She turned to her
husband.  "DidnOt he tell you where I was at?"

"He said that he didnOt know."

"I donOt know," said the boy.

"I told you."

"I wasnOt listening.  Was watching a movie.  DidnOt hear," he spoke
with cold indifference.  Only his eyes were visceral and they were
directed at the billiard balls while he daydreamed phantasms of men and
orgasms in which his mother copulated with male partygoers in a back
bedroom. Bending toward the table and aiming his cue stick he murmured
inaudibly, "I never listen to where anyone is planning to cat around to.
ItOs none of my business." Then he shot the balls.  "Your turn,

"Cat around?" said Gabriele.  "Is that what you said? I think itOs
time for you to go to bed."  Angry as she was, she laughed awkwardly to
give the impression that she construed it to be one more impertinent
statement having as little significance to her as others he had said

"Go on! WeOll finish in the morning, I promise," said the man.

"Game over permanently," said the boy in decisive coldness.  He
hastily garnered the balls into a tray and then began to descend into
his room.  As he did so he heard:  "I want to know where you have been!"
"I was just at a buyerOs home.  A kind of show and tell party."  "You
hate going to those things."  "Yeah but I sometimes have to: smiles, and
small talk.   One has to suck up to these people for cash.  I donOt have
any money, you know N well, not completely that way but coming soon.
And if it gets any worse AdagioOll have to go to public schools and IOll
sell the house.  Maybe go back to Mexico and this time live in an Adobe
hut."  "Well, if that came from another person it would be a joke but
since it is coming from you it would not surprise me if you mean it.
Remember that any crazy action like that would be the end of us."  "IOm
joking.  I donOt want an ending of us but a forever of us.  I just mean
that money has become an issue.  I have to rebuild my reputation N not
from scratch, but still reestablishing it is a struggle.  It ainOt
easy."  "Get a job."  "No, I detest jobs N especially professional jobs.
I would rather be an automaton in a factory than a paper pusher or a
money hording entrepreneur.  All of them have such wasted lives."  He
laughed.  "I have such a wasted life then."

The words did not fall into place so much as they just fell
profusely like a mist that kept her obscure from her spouse.  By their
mere arrangement, their emphasis, and their plausibility, deceit was
done without the need for prevarications, obfuscations, mendacities, and
outright lies.  She felt delivered from being thought of as the slut
that she was beginning to feel that she was.

Later, while the two were asleep and she was reading on her vinyl
sofa and occasionally peaking out of the curtain into the darkness, it
seemed to her that with sordid thoughts and deeds being such it was a
good thing that communication conveyed so little of life and reality.
In her own brain there were these incessant skirmishes to separate
herself from her environment, the tacit hostile intent toward others
expressed in the coldness of her eyes, and all these indefatigable
hungers of base instinct. The loneliness of philosophical ponderings,
the ineffable brooding, and the meticulous details of producing life and
personal statements in her art forced her to take dives ever so often
into these wild sexcapades.  Sometimes one needed to have those moments
of feeling, although never believing, the specious inebriation of
mutually shared physical intimacy.

She thought about telling him the truth.  She believed in honesty
but as she pondered doing so honesty didnOt seem to her as either all
that pragmatic or virtuous. If one were to convey her more carnal side
to any of these judgmental and precipitous creatures they would believe
it to be the full summation of the confessor.  She was a faithful wife:
faithful to her intent to care about a man, and this faithfulness did
not require ridiculous sexual fidelity as its measurement.  She told
herself that a higher being, a licentious goddess, was able to sculpt a
higher authority within all this effluvium, this muck of feelings and

So, what if she were unfaithful in a sense?  It was not she who had
amended the marital vows.  His utterance was partially made in jest, but
having made it changed the nature of the contract. Being faithful was no
longer an indefeasible Claus. It was he who had begun it all. "So many
beautiful women are on campus.  Sometimes they look like babies and
sometimes they look so ripe."  "Well, donOt famish yourself on account
of me."  "You wouldnOt mind?"  "I guess not.  Not if it didnOt mean
anything.  If a man sits in a box for some hours he would need exercise.
If hungry enough you would chew on a shoe if there werenOt anything more
edible in sight.  What right would I have to stop you?"  "Good, that is
what we should do if it becomes hard to control, and I promise that it
wonOt mean anything."  "Fine," she had said; but surely he wasnOt so
na•ve as to think that it would be an amendment giving privileges that
would be exclusively his own.

Then she went to bed.  Not able to fall asleep for an hour, she
just lay there with her man. At certain moments she felt reassured to be
there listening to his breathing and at other moments it felt
constricting to have the imposition of a man share her space.  And yet
she too needed her contracts.  She too needed to cling to another person
to seem to herself that she was more than dirt blowing around in the
impermanent streets of the city.  Each minute hunted and devoured its
predecessor, and together all the minutes were this composite of time as
the replication to replace dying cells was a collection that was the
body.  She listened to the clock.  It too was an ephemeral device that
seemed to hum as incessantly as her breath.  But both, she knew, were
temporary devices.  The abstraction of time itself, the best a woman
could conceptualize it, seemed more "eternal" just as the life of any
elderly woman would seem successfully "immortal" when there among
grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Still, in the scheme of things
all was blowing dust.

She did not blame her morbid disposition on the night.  Nocturnal
stillness aided concentration and she sunk under it as if it were her
grandmotherOs quilt.  It did not evoke a mood, for her saturnine
thoughts came in part from the slowing of spinning intoxication and a
more sobering reality pressing upon her: that she was a fraudulent wife,
an adulterous bitch, and a woman wrestled to the ground by the mundane
of financial woes.  How she could devise a viable, commercial art that
would be easily manufactured without having to forfeit her role as a
serious artistNthis was her insoluble dilemma. Even though she sensed
the answer to be immediate and palpable, it kept eluding her
nonetheless.  Seeing that her bedtime contemplations were circumgyratory
spirals of thought expended without even tiring her to the point where
she could sleep, she dressed and went outside.

A bike ride taking hours; hills beyond the city limitsNhills gilded
in sunrise; hills like that picture in her sonOs Book of Mormon showing
the Hill Cummorah where, according to the myth, these imaginary plates
were once buried; hills like that idyllic Hill that recently provoked
her to say that she would rather have him study a dirty magazine than
these man made scriptures; the idea, as the wind blew through her hair
and massaged her skin, that physical delusions were less deleterious
than mental ones; the coolness of wind blowing in her face; the silent
splendor of the ride;  the hat blowing off her head; halted peddling to
find it; the potholes and sharp rocks of rural roads; running over some
type of shard; and then there was that flat tire.  She walked the
bicycle for an hour before finally coming across a filling station.  A
worker told her that he would patch her inner tube for twenty dollars.
She called him a capitalistic pig.   He pointed to her long,
ostentatious diamond earrings and asked her what she thought that she
was.  Then there was an awareness that she knew that she was that too. A
fixed bicycle; slapping against the winds within her movement; a new
conviction to simplify her life; a rest at a convenience store; coins
into the slot of the newspaper vending machine; headlines of a man in
Albany who shot his wifeOs lover, his wife, the children, and then
himself; headlines of an overworked postal employee from Albany who
began to shoot people in the queue so as to reduce the amount of
packages submitted into his window;  a nice elderly woman smiling at her
like sunshine and asking how she was but GabrieleOs cold eyes turned her
to ice; an awareness of having wronged the woman, a compunction, and a
recalled analogy that she was that stuffed polar bear with the stiff
arms that the factory of the human race mutantly created; an elderly man
wanting to change her quarter into two dimes and a nickel for the
newspaper vending machine but GabrieleOs cold eyes turned him into ice
sculpture until he came to himself and quickly fled from the witch; and
then at last a return home.  Her son was there, brandishing his BB gun
in late morning.

"Morning soldier! ArenOt you a little old for this thing?" she
asked as she got off her bicycle.

"Yes.  Give me the real thing and this kidOs gun can go into the
trash," he said.

"No can do," she said, "or matches to an arsonist."

"IOm not an arsonist.  It was an accident."

"I wouldnOt know.  I wasnOt at your Aunt PeggyOs."

"No, you were in Japan, werenOt you?  Where have you been?"

"Riding.  It is a beautiful morning.  Good exercise.  And I was
thinking: you know, we are living beyond our means.  IOve decided to
sell the house.  WeOll look for a smaller place and weOll have money to
travel around from time to time.  YouOll get to see other places.  Maybe
youOll get to see Japan too."

"You do that and IOll be gone."

"Gone?  Gone where?  Peggy would never take you back."

"To SharonOs"

"You despise her."

"Yes," he said. He fired one shot and it went into the window.  He
fired a second, and a third time at the fleeing owl and the bleeding
corpse plumped onto the earth like a water balloon.

Although he saw it flounder in the skies as he floundered around on
the Earth, Sang Huin was not exactly sure where the kite was struck to
the ground.  He thought of how so many years of his life were struck
down in silence.  Only June, the basketball star, had voice and opinions
that could sway the parents. He was inconsequential, relegated to
shadows. He upbraided himself and stymied his thoughts immediately.  He
didnOt want to think any bad thoughts about his sister.  He had no right
to think them.  Instead, he desperately thought that he should marry a
woman and have a family of his own, thereby enveloping himself in a
world of forgetfulness.  His buttocks were hurting from where he sat and
the wind was beginning to sweep down its polluted grit of rain.  He got
up.  He needed to go downtown to Myong Dong and try to find a birthday
present for Seong Seob, but first he needed to pick up an umbrella.

Chapter 42

"ENo," she thought, "those disconcerting eyes would not leaveEwill
not leaveEwouldnOt want them to leaveE.He is here a part of my
fateE.Spots over my eyes, hypersensitivity to sound as well as
lightEideas so painful, and yet I drag them aboutEpounding thoughts of
raw sensitivity and I drag these sickly bodies to have something to
doEand to clog the empty space of the hours. Before this I was thinking
of my son and now I am thinking about my thoughtsEa concentration on
anything to forefend this unreality of everythingE every item in this
dark tomb, and the air and light within it are so distant like trying to
remember the details of a dream weeks earlierEbrain insurrection, and
stomach like when I was carsick with Michael in Eureka Springs,
Arkansas, sick as when I was pregnant with Nathaniel Adagio
SangfroidEinert as if deadEdead as the owl plopping onto the groundElack
of energyEenervation not  of being drained but like it just suddenly
packed up its bags and went, leaving behind the barren house, now
looking like a dilapidating hutENeed to think of something placid,
pellucid, permanent."  She meant that she needed to imagine a tranquil
and permanent entity, God, by which to ease her pain, and yet being an
atheist there was none.  For atheists like her there were just ideas to
be posited as if raising these walls, these labyrinths of logic, and
then running in them, would lead her to some advanced destination. And
so she posited that man, being such a dodger of pain, would inevitably
become religious within sickness.  She posited that even the most
intransigent atheist was susceptible to the god of his own making.  But
thinking about thoughts was making the migraine even worse.  Ideas were
making the bulimic sick and she felt like she was ready to vomit them
up.  She again tried to find a benign image exempt of painful words that
she could rest in while in these vapid hours.

And she could only think of her grandmother who, with Peggy, arrived
that one time at the Emporia Kansas bus terminal to pick her up.  Those
eyes were so empathic to her, the young girl who was just beginning to
recuperate from having been run over by lieutenants Mom and Dad as they
went off into the sunset on their tank; and this grandmotherly empath
could transmute pain and make it her own better than any mood ring.
She thought of the feel of her grandmotherOs pantyhose when sitting in
her lap and the appearance of that ceramic cookie jar in the form of a
piggy with a chipped ear and a vest.  When her grandmother removed his
head all of those chocolate chip cookies that she baked were there.
Still, this sole, loving and loveable relative was not permanent.  She
too was fleetingly mortal.  Gabriele thought of a more permanent entity,
a tree, but its leaves were deciduous and it had no power to alter its
environment or to love selflessly.  Then she thought of the sky: it was
permanently sky; but it was rarely placid and only pellucid to
meteorologists, and of empathy it had none.  Men died in hurricanes,
typhoons, lightning strikes, floods, and heat strokes. She wondered if
she was going mad. "Need to go to the shopE I need to get off this
sofa," she thought, but the thought was barely pressed together under
the butcher knife of the Migraine.  Still she thought it nonetheless,
and others as well, to fill the stillness of the hours of pain.

Alone:   When not having a father or any type of a male role model
the "differentiation" of a boy in his stages of disengagement from his
mother have no other course but through these addictions to titillations
which compel him to climb each and every pleasure until at last falling
into the crevasse of family himself and all of its falling debris of
obligations.  This being such, she knew that her time within her own
crevasse would not last; and that to be inextricably attached to these
selfish and impermanent beings who had fallen in with her would merely
be a form of weak clinging.  It was bad enough in stability searching
herds but for a goddess like herself it would be a particular

Family:  Her aunt had believed in it enough to take her into her
home despite the objections of her husband; but then she had also
believed that Heaven was a better place than the Earth without having
gone to the former and rarely getting out into the latter with Wal-Mart
shopping centers so nearby, that openly communicating oneOs filthy mind
about misinterpreted gestures like avuncular touch would be conclusive
proof that one was a hateful girl indeed, and that only within muteness
locked in immeasurable and inconclusive memories was one showing love
toward all members of this sacrosanct organization.  This, the
incommunicable utterance, was the only means to exist successfully for
they who, to acclimate, were ensconced in safe perfunctory movements
within the crevasse.

The mutability of family:  WasnOt it apparent that her man had
snagged himself on his tree of recently ripened campus fruit and that
this adulterous delay in the Big Apple might go into a third week and
beyond?  And last week what had been her role of chauffeuring Nathaniel
and his giddy date to an amusement park unless it were the beginning to
that end?  Evidence for both came in the form of flinging more and more
TV dinners into the oven and eating them saliently alone in her dining
room.  Not that she felt uncomfortable uncovering the aluminum foil and
eating her food all alone.  She loved her ruminations more than any
other earthling she encountered.  So wondering what her man was
uncovering and putting into his mouth and what bimbo her son was chewing
on like a chicken bone as she removed the foil of the TV dinner was a
very enjoyable activity.  It was enjoyable for she was intrigued with
all of lifeOs curiosities.

These stodgy thoughts: They encompassed the hours and moved at a
dinosaurOs reptilian pace for they werenOt fully the refinement of
thought either but callow half ideas shaped more of superfluous raw
feelings than thought and being newborn with eyes shut they staggered

Feeling: it came about from chemicals that surrounded an impression
made in the gel of memory, and if the impression was a good one, they
tried to prompt a being toward more of them, and if it was bad with less
of such engagements.

Staggering, her stodgy physical being also had trouble moving.  She
went to the bathroom with a belief that she would take a shower so that
she could go to the shop.  She had opened a store that sold landscape
paintings and posters from various sources, picture frames, and in her
partitioned backroom that she called her gallery, paintings that she
picked up from recent trips to Southeast Asia.  It was there, as the
business was beginning to do well financially that within her migraines
she began to founder there in mundane numbers of dollars and cents,
abstractions that bored her beyond belief.  The frequency of her
migraines augmented for, buoyant as she was, she was nonetheless tossed
in the undulations of the ennui.  Sick at times like she was now, she
did not feel like a deity any longer but an effete, forlorn bastardess
in this world.

The shop:  It was a room by which bland lives from colorless walls
could choose from her insipid goods; and from it her monetary concerns
were eased as she prostituted the hours of her days.

The days:  Already a year had passed away since the point where she
wanted to sell the house.  It passed away as if it were a mere hour.  It
passed away as the owl, the ball games of her two boys that had
disturbed the bird, youthful naivety that a childOs bliss in the simple
pleasures of the day (the only happiness there was by her reckoning of
the years of her life) would go on forever, and that confidence that the
unquestioning love of a child would never alter into the adult judgment
against an errant parent.  It passed away as youth itself no matter how
many doses of Vitamin E and C, growth hormones, estrogen and
testosterone replacement, vegetarian meals of choices rich in
antioxidants, low fat foods high in carbohydrates, botox injections,
wrinkle reducer creams, and morning racket ball sessions with her
employees that she implemented into each day.

The house:  They were still living there because less than a year
ago no one seemed likely to buy it to be of immediate help to her

The boy:  And she kept the boy, irate as he was about having a real
estate agentOs sign in the front yard, since there was no other place
for him to go.

She would have gone into the "gallery" to perform her perfunctory
duties were in not for the bathroom mirror reflecting a paler and more
haggard visage than what she cared to accept; and so, unable to let
determination belie reality, she returned to the cold embrace of her
silk bed linen.  She just lay there with the hours until, puffing on
some marijuana and dozing for a few minutes, she awakened to her higher
authority accosting her like a mosquito.  Gabriele tried to shoo her
away with her hand.

"You canOt get rid of me that easily," laughed the Higher

"Athena, sorry. I thought you were an insect."

The Higher Authority guffawed.  "It is Athena, the insect, is it?
I thought the last time we were together I was Aten and you were
Akhenaten, or was it the other way around?"

"IOve made you Athena this time. You have a body and garments that
I would ascribe as being Ancient Greek and godessesque.  So, what is

"So haughty and so cold.   And I am your higher authority!  You can
freeze people even in the most innocuous situations, Gabriele.  It is
pitiful; as your eyes did to that Pizza Hut delivery creature who
brought you a cheese instead of a Bella Garden and with the extra thick
crust instead of a thin crust in violation of your strict adherence to a
youth fulfillment diet.  You can freeze them all you like, but donOt
make the mistake that you have that impact on me."

"The pizza was too hot.  I turned the delivery guy cold.  It kept
the world in an equilibrium that way."

"And on that train trip from Bangkok to Changmai to acquire those
Nawin Biadklang paintingsN"

"Not only those but others in Southeast Asia.  What about it? You
canOt surely scold me for my response to that jackass on the train.
Well, Athena, I was sketching that verdant green landscape and a train
stop in a small town with all of its myriad figures when this old
jackass seated next to his wife said in English, OI would like to go to
sleep now.O  I said OYou are over there with your wife so sleep there
next to her.  I donOt want to be the instigator of divorce proceedings.
No need to cross the aisle and come over into these seats.O  He said, OI
have a ticket.  I am over there.  I have a lower.O  I checked my ticket.
OI sleep in the lower cot,O I said.  OIt is marked on my ticket.O  OHow
much was your ticket?O asked the old gizzard, snatching my ticket out of
my hands.  O1400 baht round trip,O I told the old gizzard.  OI paid 1600
baht for mine and so I get the lower no matter what it says on your
ticket.  You get the upper!O he told me.  OListen, fuck head, IOm busy
now,O I said as I took back my ticket.  OUpper/lower N who gives a
flying fuck. I suppose I can climb the bars like a monkey and into this
upper monkey coffin but it wonOt happen right away.  IOm busy, you see.
I wasnOt put on this planet to serve your whims.  If you are so tired
take a nap in your present seat.O  By this time he had uniformed
security guards and God knows who telling me I needed to go out with
them as if I were being arrested and he was gossiping full force to
every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the train making an embarrassing scene.
Was I supposed to stop my work because Old Gizzard wanted to go to sleep
at 6 p.m.  I am not that big of a whore that I exist to please the whims
of all old gizzards.  So, he and his brown suited thugs got the cold
stare from beginning to the end when I sealed myself up in my monkey
coffin.  I know I have a hard faade but that doesnOt mean I donOt
concern myself with others.  If Old Gizzard were choking to death, of
course I would give him the Heimlich maneuver.  If he were having a
nervous breakdown I would talk sweet logic to him to appease him
throughout the hours of illogical and troubled emotions.  As it turned
out, I think that he is lucky I didnOt climb down from the metallic
limbs and clog his snoring with my dirty socks choking off mouth and

"You sound like a real bitch."

"People have had that impression of me.  They have since I was a
little girl.  I donOt mind at all.  Matter of fact I think of the word
as a real compliment.  Your impression of me is all your own.  Do what
you will with it, and then bug off."

The Higher authority guffawed once again.  When she gained
composure she asked, "So then, should I say that you need no one?"

"Yes, youOve got itNno one."  Gabriele smiled complacently.

"HmmEMaybe Antarctica would be the best choice for someone like
you.  I did come here for a purpose but it seems that it would be futile
in the present attitude.  You have gotten more cynical with the years,
havenOt you, Gabriele?"

"Perhaps.  I donOt paint any longer, you know.  I just run a shop to
keep my family going.  His tuition is rather expensive."

"ThatOs love.  It is nothing to be cynical about."

"And what is this grand purpose of yours?"

"  I just wanted you to consider whether or not, at this point, you
have been an effective mother.  YouOve done some things with good enough
intentions, I know, but overall Americans judge accomplishments in a
very pragmatic perspective: has it worked?"

"YouOve already reached your conclusion that it has not, so there
isnOt a lot of purpose in the question unless you just like wasting my
time.   HeOs a teenager now.  ItOs a little late to go back in time,
wouldnOt you say?  I doubt that there is anything that needs to be
undone, anyhow.  Just as siblings compete fiercely to get mamma birdOs
affections so that she will feed them the biggest worms, an only child
also uses his parents."

"And parents children."

Gabriele felt as if the words had smote her on her face.  It stung
but after a gloomy and tacit withdrawal she looked onto her higher
authority and smiled gravely as one beginning to understand.   Having
failed her son was seeping into all previous convictions and deep into
old memories themselves.  She was being enlightened in a most acerbic
way.  It was unpleasant; but when anything came along to make her more
aware she did not want to shun it.  She stayed silent for a few minutes
until words again bubbled up through the aperture of her mouth.

"Perhaps I did use him. By having a child I gained companionship
on my journey into alonenessN"


"And maybe the wish to finish family completely by beginning one
of my own. Not good reasons I know."

"No.  Keeping Peggy from seeing himN"

"Okay, it was spiteful.  IOll grant you that one."

"Quite unseemly for a goddess."

"OkayEI suppose so. Still, realistically a bad family continues its
stranglehold on the errant child unless she brings closure on it by
making her own family.  That is just the way it is.  Anyhow, I attempted
to fulfill my duties to the world.  I gave birth to a child and put him
into an isolated area of a small town to bring his formative years in
harmony with classical music and non-violent fables. But he was a child
of impetus and not reflection.  Born in the Gulf War, the year of
truculence, by his seventh year he had beaten up some red headed girl
for kissing him on the merry-go-round and had beaten the shit out of
some little fuck who made a crude comment about me casting spells on men
and eating their piss.  School sucked him up to make him a member of
truculent society.  Ball competition was preferred over looking at the
uniqueness of every blade of grass. What could I do? I did my best
considering the fact that I prioritized my own continuing evolvement."

"And what did you learn that was so instrumental to your personal

"I learned to play a shokohachi, a Japanese musical instrument."
She chuckled embarrassingly.

"Your mouth always did like to go down on long instruments.
Anything else?"

"I became a lesbian briefly."

"ThatOs right.  Hilda was her name.  When did you last communicate
with her?"

"I donOt know.  Four years ago, maybe."

"Forlorn Hilda.  Not all that much different than Rita/Lily
Lily/Rita.  Das stimmt, nitch wahr?" [ThatOs so, isnOt it?] spoke the
Higher Authority, for a moment changing the conversation into German.

"Oh, please, you got that from Adagio.  He doesnOt know what he is
talking about."

"DoesnOt he?  He knows.  I know.  You know. Dear, silly little
Gabriele, you are hallucinating desertions of mom and dad in all things.
So you desert rather than be deserted. Remember that with kings and
paupers, with great and small creatures, one can have such sweet
connections, but you have to leave Fort Gabriele first."

"This mixing is a diluting of potential.  Most people donOt know
themselves and have never had an interesting thought all their born days
because they are scared to sit down with themselves for a minute.  They
flit around as social butterflies when they are gadflies to me. You make
me sound as a nut with a major behavioral disorder.  I guess you would
have more grounds to call me autistic.  I just donOt have this strong
yearning to drive myself into the thick part of the herd.  If one is
such a deviant, they think she is crazy.  Their negative judgments are
meant to pillory a person to drive him or her back into the herd.

"Just because someone has gone from a personOs life doesnOt mean she
cannot be ebullient with that entity.  The more beings that are there in
the heart the more alive he or she will be!  It is that simple: love and
be loved!"

"Oh, you sentimental creature. Heart-- is that the receptacle of
these highly prized human emotions for contemporary man? Eth emotions that
make humans slaughter each other. The Egyptians thought this heart was
the receptacle of thought.  You make me want to puke using such silly
words frivolously to reflect nothing.  You talk abstractions of heart
and love like such a sophist."

"Gabriele, dear stupid Gabriele of such wasted intelligence, were
you really so smashed by that tank which your parents drove off in? Has
life really been so flat ever since? Have you never considered that
human relationships in particular are like the beautiful scents of
flowers and these scents are the interaction with other entities."

"Nay, these scents as you call them are manipulative forcesNthe
flower trying to attract the bee to pollinate its kind, the gentleman
wanting to get laid, the smiling businessman trying to woo in the money.
I am sick of this flowery gunk.  Matter of fact IOm damn sick and sick
of you!  Be gone with you, Mosquito!"  And so she shooed her Higher
Authority away.

She thought about that time a year ago when her hubris was so
indefatigable. HadnOt she told herself back then that, should it take
place, his return to Sharon would be a detachment of no more sentimental
value than an extracted tooth? Then, visibly upset one given day, he
announced to her that he really meant it and would be leaving
immediately. It was only in her phlegmatic folding of his clothes,
packing his bags, calling a taxi for him, and seeing him go away in it,
that she put consistent direction into the distraught boyOs ambivalent
and floundering movements.  Back then he couldnOt even pack a suitcase
for himself, as discombobulated as his thoughts were. Back then she was
so dangerously obdurate as if she were not mortal at all and had no
connection to these lesser beings. Still she supposed that if he had not
been refused, and had not retreated home in that same taxi, she could
not have maintained her dignified stoicism indefinitely.   Losing
another boy to Sharon, she might well have eventually fallen into a
nadir or great depression like an apoplexy felling her into a great
sleep. Change, that tempest of discontent, made deciduous waste of all
this impermanence that always left a person long before she would leave
herself at her demise. Maybe it was auspicious that her will had been
thwarted.  At the time she even sensed some external force upon her that
was trying to stymie her recalcitrant will.  Were these the feelings of
a secondary will or was it the voice of God trying to choke deleterious
determination before she was choked by it?  This too was an unknown.
And time went by like a shell-shocked soldier.

Sang HuinOs interactions at a convenience store that he often
frequented were no different than at any other time.  For the people
whom he encountered he had, at one moment, the pugnacious haughtiness of
a bull ready to charge, the next moment a conscientious withdrawal from
this arrogant stance by awkward fumbling glances and gestures, and
lastly a shy retreat from human interaction.  So as he was at the 7-
eleven at 2:00 in the morning buying some milk the same thing occurred:
bullish glances into the faces of the cashiers, awkwardly attempting to
locate his wallet from one of the pockets of his bag (money always
having been such a dismissed tool until that inevitability of having to
use it), and a hurried look of one wanting to abscond from having his
fumbling interactions with King Sejong notes scrutinized as much as a
wish to avoid small talk with the cashiers (Korean utterances or near
utterances to which he would be as ungrammatical as a pig or therein in
his native English where a fuller exchange and a denuding of himself
would have to ensue).

This disorganization with Korean Won and money in general was what
he knew to be a microcosm of wanting to depart from all social
situations.  It was his secret of dislike of humanity and feeling that
he was wrong to feel this way embarrassingly disclosed by the fumbling
subconscious like the disrobing of Janet JacksonOs breasts.  It was no
wonder that the gentleman within him often ran away in the midst of
social encounters.

He was even a little annoyed that there was no one behind him
waiting in line and, in so doing, making his time with the cashiers a
more professionally expedited encounter.  But this English speaking
cashier would not have any more of this being dismissed the way he had
behaved unto her for months.  She found his pugnacious and haughty
awkwardness such an eccentric mix against his handsome backdrop.  By her
reasoning of things, not being so beautiful herself his blighted
character made him more obtainable.

In one quick gesture she snatched his Pocket PC out of his shirt
pocket and asked, "What is this?"  He answered, "It is my pocket PC.
Can I have it back?"  He was alarmed.  It was no less than a kidnapping
of Gabriele and his face grimaced like an old man, making her chuckle.
"No, she said.  You will not get it back.  Well, maybeNbut only if you
send to me an SMS from your mobile phone asking to have it returned."
"Why do I need to do that when you understand what IOm saying in
person?" he asked.  "Because I want to have your phone number in my
mobile."  She quickly wrote down her phone number on a piece of paper
and handed it to him.  There was little else he could do but to fulfill
the instructions of the ransom even though the obtuse man was totally
baffled by these actions. He needed the return of his beloved Gabriele,
his image, his truth.  He sent to her this SMS:  "I donOt like it when
people steal my things.  It isnOt friendly."  She read it and smiled
widely for this was their first substantive dialogue.  "Okay," she said,
"I will return your toy but I want you to smile every time you see me
from now on, and I want you to mean it."  He felt excited by her
storming of the wall he had built around himself and smiled more
meaningfully than his usual genuine contrivances.  She handed to him his
change and the plastic bag containing his carton of milk.  "My shift
ends now.  You can walk me home."  She signed out of her cash register,
and then winked at her coworker who giggled as the couple left the
convenience store.  "What is your friend amused about?" he asked.
"You," she said.  "Why do you want me to walk you home?  Seoul is such a
safe city," he said.  "Safe if you are a man," she responded.  He felt
aroused by her.  With Seong Seob no longer allowing him to penetrate,
her flesh seemed all the more sumptuous despite the effluvium of cheap
perfume that exuded from it.  For he who lived so little in this world
it seemed that he needed the physical immersion, the pierce into another
humanOs skin, beyond all other creatures.  At least it seemed to him as
such; and he would have gone with her into her apartment and its bedroom
had she not stopped him at the gate.  This was Korea, and a Korean girl
in the mainstream of the thicket would consummate a relationship only
after the marital vows were declared. She kissed him.  "I am free to see
a late morning movie.  Meet me in front of the store at ten."  "All
right," he said.

Three years later another spell more debilitating than this
migraine took place.  Whereas the other one, and ones like it, felt like
the impact of being smacked against some type of a wall, this one was a
gradual crescendo of being smashed into the abyss.

It was 6:00 and she was returning from a trip to New York City
where she had attended a symphony with her man when she missed an
entrance to a roadside park.  Needing even more to stretch, she veered
off the interstate to a small town.

Although it was wintertime, a new brand of boy keen to play a
global sport was in a baseball diamond practicing a sundry of soccer
maneuvers from kicks and stops to stylized manipulations of balls.  She
parked outside the diamond and got out.  These male youths were kicking
a mist of dust into the air in what at first seemed like a purposeless
expenditure of energy but when she thought about it seemed more like a
male initiation ceremony. All were so uniform in their uniforms.  It
seemed to her that young men and boys in particular needed a typical
male activity with which to sense themselves.  What they were and what
they were supposed to do with themselves from the events that should
bring on insouciance and imperturbability to appropriate times for
masturbation would be extrapolated in this ensemble of males.  As her
eyes followed the dust she felt deep sympathy for these   fragile
creatures.  Boys and their balls began to seem like such a lugubrious
theme and she wondered if it could be transferred to canvas should she
ever paint again.  She scanned the field and its outskirts.   She saw
some men who were no doubt watching their sons.  If a boy were to not
have a father showing some interest in guiding him, if not to a positive
expression of manhood that most did not have a clue about, at least an
innocuous release of youthful energies on a ball, it seemed to her that
he would be lost forever.  It seemed to her that he might not ever find
a real vocation for himself and he would not even know if he should look
up a skirt or pull on another manOs zipper.

She called her man on her mobile phone.  "Hi, itOs me.  Did you get
back to your apartment okay?  Good.  No, IOm just taking a break from
driving.  What?  Oh, I donOt know exactly.  Some little town.  IOm near
a ball diamond.  Nothing really.  Stretching and thinking my weird
thoughts.  Yeah, I went through a Chinese fast food drive-thru, thanks.
What about you? Huh?  You are breaking up a bitE.  I seeE. Okay, I guess
if you are with someone I should call you laterE.  Girl or guy friend?
Uh huh.  No, IOm not jealous.  That is an antediluvian instinct of
troglodytesE.  Cavemen, my Russian friend.  You learn so many new words
from me on a daily basis that I ought to charge you for the service.
Antediluvian? N old, out of date, ancient, prehistoric.  Well, I guess
you should get back to your date.  Better to ball a chick than play ball
with a boy.  No, nothing.  Just me and my weird thoughtsE .Purpose?
Well, again, thanks for the ticket to the concert.  I decided to call
Ocause I wanted you to know that I was thinking of you, although my
timing seems to be all so wrong.  What?E  Why do I make jealousy equated
to primal drives of cavemen and cave mice, of mice and men? I think that
is what you are asking. Think of it, my love, it is just a way for a man
to make sure that he doesnOt have to take care of babies that arenOt his
and for a woman not to lose her hunter. Okay, so I canOt prove it.  IOm
a bit like Descartes that way despite my belief in scientific inquiry
and methodology. But still one can know lots that canOt be proven.  It
is simple and base selfishness that prompts humans to respond as they
do.  That is why I scorn the herds.  One of my other reasons for calling
is thinking about both of you, you and Nathaniel, and each of you
needing each other no matter if you believe it or notE.  Of course.
IOm not scolding you.  No lectures.  I agree.   Yes, I know you have
been kind to him, but you havenOt been close.  A man needs to guide a
boy and a boy needs to be guided by a man.  I know he is not your son,
and he isnOt exactly the easiest person to deal with, but he has no
other fatherE.Yeah, I know.  You donOt exactly live with us now.  Forget
it.  I shouldnOt have asked that I suppose.  What?E  No.  Okay, in part
when I married you I thought that you would be a positive influence on
him.  Is that so bad?  Marriages are contracts and people have
expectations when they go into them.  What did you expect?   (Laugh).
Pussy, you say? You seem to be getting that without me.  Is your friend
at the table with you?  Oh, gone to the bathroom.  ThatOs goodE. God, I
donOt even know if you want to stay together.  I know you think that
friends should marry and we did.  What?E  No, I donOt want a divorce but
we need to do more than once a month of seeing each otherE.Yes, I know.
It was my crazy idea. IOm full of them. As an artist I need time alone
but IOm not an artist now but a businesswomanE.  Yes, IOm sure IOm not
jealous, as much as you might want me to be.  IOm beyond that.  IOm
beyond instinct, beyond societal influences, beyond religion, beyond,
beyond! Free to be a loose canon.  Yes, I know I amuse you.  So, to
better amuse you I think we should meet at least twice a month or our
signatures on a piece of paper will begin to seem like a distant dreamE.
Okay, good.  And could you call Nathaniel later this week just to ask
him how he is? Do you still have his mobile number?  Good.  Everybody
needs to think that someone cares for him a little no matter if he does
or not (laugh)... IOm joking.  Of course I amEYes, I know you do in your
own way as me in my own ways.  We all have our ways."

A half hour later she got back into her car and drove into the
embrace of darkness.  It was 3:34 in the morning when she first saw the
roof of her quasi-hermitage from a distance.  At the first glimpse of it
she released a long exhalation as if, after a long exhausting journey,
she needed to rest from breathing itself within the comfort of her
solitary bedroom.  But then seeing cars strewn on the edge of the road,
she felt disconcerted as if she had driven into the wrong place while
knowing that she was back home.

She felt alarmed and her mind tried to conjure up scenarios that
might explain this emergency, if it were such.  But upon advancing
closer, she saw that there were no emergency vehicles and merely more of
these emptied shells of unwanted strangers littering her drive.  Unable
to park there, she was forced into a backward retreat.

She parked halfway into a ditch behind most of the others and
turned off her engine.  There, she was stunned by loud music vibrating
the windows, piercing her ears with its pollutants of action usurping
meditation, and weltering in the hollows of her brain.  She entered her
hermitage whence all the noise originated.  Inside all was being
barraged in the cacophony of rap, hip hop, or some other artillery that
she had neither knowledge of nor empty labels to place on that which she
was adverse to know anything about. She looked on her surroundings with
the consternation of one returning to charred and smoke filled ruins
still in the grip of war.

Then her mood changed into something entirely different: moralistic
loathing.  She felt as an unwitting heterosexual man innocently
defecating in a cubicle of a restroom in a shopping mall who is startled
and appalled to see from that crevice interconnecting the adjacent
cubicle to his own a hand one moment, a face the next, and then that
hand again as it trespasses with fingers wiggling a "come to my stool
and service me" gesture.  For when the consternation had worn off the
former whore and Victorian adulteress was repulsed by the world around
her: repulsed by the nebulous clouds of smoke, the inebriating smells of
beer so potent as to be tactile and viscous enough to be a liquid
pouring into her lungs, this scene of teenage couples smooching and
almost smooching as they got stoned in her living room, and how this
generation was caught up in the same hungers making it no different from
those which preceded it.

All compunction of her own interestingly varied if no more
lascivious life than other earthlings vanished from all conscious
thought.  Even if she had latent ideas that Puritanical prudishness
would be hypocritical, and even if she doubted having the moral
authority to be the guardian of youth since, according to her there were
no morals to guard, she intended to crash the party nonetheless.

The indignation she, an American homeowner, experienced at such
intruders occupying and thereby desecrating "her" hallowed domain
amalgamated with her Puritanical eagerness to excoriate all moral
unregenerates. For she too was an American, that autocratic hybrid of
conservative and liberal property owners, espousers, and defenders of
ownership who wanted to dictate moral rules sententiously in accord with
ownership agendas. As nature only had evolvement from viable elements,
energy, accident, and chance into its structure a person with some
financial means wanted to own and possess to be, and wanted the
trespassers of her property arrested.  She thought of this peculiar
sense of ownership that flared within her; and although she would be
amused by ruminations of its senselessness in the immediate future, now
she judged it was time to be irate.  It was time to act.

Disheveled angel on a loveseat: "Hello, you must be Mom."  Beer
bottle quaffer on a newly upholstered chair (repeating mockingly):"Hi
Mom."  Androgynous purple haired creature (disingenuous as a child
waving at Mickey Mouse in Disneyland but directed at her, this polar
bear with the stiff arms who had been mutilation at her inception, who
trudged through the party): Merely waving.

The occupiers seemed to be everywhere.  Some were rising from below
or descending from above to stare at her from a staircase while a good
many of the others were in the same room with her or waiting in the
hall.  As her house had myriad rooms, so she assumed, would be the
amount of trespassers

Gabriele (to all):  "Who or what the hell are you?"  Angel (as if
the question were directed to her alone): "I am an angel."  AngelOs
partner on the loveseat: "Angel of the streets.  That would be more like

He was using his fingers to comb through her disheveled hairN hair
that combed or not was comely in youthN youths who were insouciant and
free of financial worries, nonchalant to the shadow of their adulthood
of entrapment that they were stepping into like a snareN shadows of
ineluctable errors in the making of oneOs own family that for now were
not their own. She imagined the angel" dirtying up" the back of her sofa
with the hair fibers of her mop.  Then she surmised the dirty invaders
as a whole. They were getting high on more than the present moment. If
they were still floating on a dispersed cloud of smoke they would soon
be seeking to inhale more to keep themselves high until the
inevitability of sleep would make them founder.  If they had not already
burnt a whole or spilled beer onto any of her furniture they would have
surely done so had she kept her original plan of staying in New York
City for the night.  She loathed them for being the dirty ravagers of
her home that they were but, wise to herself and the tricks therein, she
knew that she loathed the occupiers more from the envy of their youth
than for any carnal carnival that they had imposed upon her hermitage
schemed together in the expectation of her absence.

Angel: "Okay, IOm a street angel."  Laughter in the room to which
Gabriele also laughed albeit begrudgingly.  Thick lips:  "Call me Mr. P.
How do you do, Mother?  Would you allow me to kiss your cheek?" More
hysterical laughter.  Was her role as the mommy storming the party
something so farcical?  Was she such a farce as a mother?   If she were
it was from the fact that her intelligence was greater than the role.
This was what she told herself.  She grabbed thick lips by one of his
long ears and forced him to kneel.  "Do you think IOd let an ugly dog
like you slobber on me?" she blared.  There was more hysterical
laughter.   The room itself seemed to scoff her pretension to motherhood
within the sheer volume of its cacophonous and sneering laughter.   Her
obdurate eyes fell as solid boulders into his retina pools. Then
suddenly, her cold eyes dismissed him as of having no more importance
than any insect, and she brushed him aside.

WerenOt they impertinent?  If it had been directed toward anyone
else she would have approved, but their impertinence to her was a
contemptible act mocking the authority she had to dismiss them with.
Their sedentary refusal to leave her immediately as she entered her
domicile was a criminal action.  "PartyOs over, partyOs over!" she
screamed six times into random faces that were seated in a semicircle.
But this only increased their laughter at the redundancies of the mad
mommy.    For a year now there had been her own repudiation of the
residual smells of cocaine; briefly returning from the shop to find him
lounging around in the house in his underwear; music slaughtering her
contemplations; sitting languidly in meetings at the school to discuss
his truancy and feeling as a broken drum, a defunct instrument that
could not obtain change; his running away for days without her being
able to fathom where he went; talks where, without propitiating, she
admitted having not been there as much as the domestic sort, but
cautioning him to secure his future by attending classes and studying as
diligently as he was able to do; scoldings and beatings that were also
to no avail; watching small but expensive items disappear from the home
and telling herself that she meant to get rid of them anyhow; and now

"Where is he!" she demanded to know from the sundry people who had
risen from the pit of the house to the parlor.

"Up!" said someone; and she found him in her bed copulating with
his girl beneath him.  She grabbed him by the neck, dragging the naked
body through the frenetic crowds.  With a burly frame kept muscular by
her ritual of weekly if not daily racket ball sessions, she was able to
pull him around no differently than she had when he was five years old.
Enjoying his ride and his naked exhibition beyond any pleasure he had
ever felt before, he squealed with laughter even unto being hurled into
the snow.

"I love you Mom," he guffawed.

"IOll bring your bitch out next and you can do that in the
streets."  As she turned to do just that someone brought out NathanielOs
clothes and the crowd began to disperse from the house.

When he returned late in the afternoon she was on her deck.  Like
her migraine, an unpredictable storm was coming upon her.  Trees hurled
their limbs at the dusk because they themselves were being hurled.  They
were angered because they were being angrily smote.  It seemed to her
that everything was smote in jilts of unpredictable existence, and love
itself was no guarantee of anything.  It was selfishly using a child and
being used and merely this. Bland philistine lives devoid of color and
galleries in a marriage where two conventional parents were always
present could produce Klu Klux Klan members, Timothy McVeighs, serial
killers, snipers, child molesters, unibombers, or bigoted bible thumpers
blowing up abortion clinics.  Weakened and in pain, she half way yearned
for a priest to hand her a round piece of unleavened bread to melt in
her mouth for a reduction of tension in her life, the melting of her
quandaries, and the belief that crucifixions and violence and those who
were born in the wrong socioeconomic state and whose short and painful
lives were consumed by hard labor and drudgery for survival in the
injustices and truculence that abound were all part of GodOs plan.  She
wistfully thought of the statues of saints and patron saints that had
their home warming familiarity.  Then he approached her.

"Hi. Sorry about everything. Teenagers, right?  We like parties.  I
didnOt have permission and things got out of control.  Are you angry?"

She noticed how muscular he now was.  For the first time she felt
intimidated by it, seated there as weakened as she was.   She cleared
her throat and looked on him like an object such as a wall that she
would see and her hubris would bypass as immaterial.  He had felt it
before and hated that look of hers beyond all others.  Her treatment of
the dog, he assessed, was sometimes better than this. "I think IOll try
something," she mumbled aloud contemplatively.  "When do you think
youOll be paid from that burger joint you work for?"


"Do you have money?"


"I donOt think IOll have you as a son any longer.  Still, itOs a
little hardNnot impossible though Nto throw you out. Stay as a tenant if
you want.  You can give me half what you get.   That way you can stay.
WeOll do this for a time and see how it goes.  And if it doesnOt go then
you can go.  IOll ask you to leave if it doesnOt work. IOll force you

"You stopped the allowance.  That is why IOm working there so much
on the weekends with so little pay when I should be studying  "

"I didnOt want it to go into dope."

"Oh, please.  You are the one who smokes joints."

"Different.  It is medicine for my migraines, and I donOt take it
often.  Pay half and then you can stayNin your area below, and only
this.  Half and you can stay."

"All right," he said.

The next morning she woke up from a strange dream in which she was
driving over her son the way Michael had run over the Indian boy; and as
she woke up startled from the dream she was again startled in her
awakened state. Nathaniel was there smirking at her in a corner of her
bedroom, crunching on a cup of ice, and the shadow of his burly form was
impinging on the edge of her bed.  She was mute in a cold chill.  He was
there for a few seconds and then he was gone.

She again stayed at home the next day since her headache was now
fully a migraine; but unable to concentrate on reading a book, she soon
felt lonely and bored with so much resting in bed.   She brought in a
stray cat that she had been feeding for a month.  It strangled her
footsteps when she moved, cried if it wasnOt touched, and when she put
it on her lap it tried to suck on the buttons of her shirt as if it had
regressed to the unopen-eyed newborn needing to be nursed and to immerse
itself in a mother.  The behavior was strange and she was half-tempted
to throw it out had unwanted empathy not infected her thoughts.
Furthermore, it gave her subject for thought, which she liked so well;
and whenever an event or being provided her with a subject for
rumination it gave her a gift that superseded the pleasure or pain of
the interaction. If she had morality it was that of empathy and to
measure a thing based upon it giving her subject for rumination. It was
from the cat that she garnered, from her experience with it, that
memories of traumatic events pressed into the actions of all things.
She was watching Star Trek reruns, and drooling chewing tobacco into an
aperture of a Coca Cola can when Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy
were beaming up at the same time as her son.  Obviously he didnOt go to
school.  She told herself that she didnOt "give a damn" and this time it
was essentially true.

"Little pig, little pig, will you let me come in?" he asked from
the doorway of her bedroom.

"It all depends," she said stoically.  "If you have money you can
leave it and go.  If you donOt have money you have broken two
fundamental clauses in our contractNone that forbids you from this area
of the domicile and a second that you have to pay what is owed to me."
She was angry that even now, for his sake, she threw away money on
tuition and tutors, was living in a house that was really beyond her
means, and was a businesswoman, a lowly merchant, for his sake.  She had
sacrificed for him and it had been a waste.

"IOm not paying anything to you," he said.

"Is that so," she asked calmly.  "Then really there is no reason to
be up here, is there?"

"All right," he said and went away.

And then, in that evening of the third day of Migraines, her flow
of energy was now a desiccated bed of rock and soot. She merely lay on
the sofa near the billiard table with the cat sleeping on her lap and
her eyes staring at the individual and collective tiles of the ceiling.
She too had regressed for like a child she was afraid to make any
movement lest the cat be disturbed; and this pathos, like a childOs, was
from discerning the vulnerability of all things that could only be
peered from the scope of oneOs weakness.  He again came to her.  He was
grinning complacently.  She wondered why he was now moving beyond his
boundary: and yet he was male, and no different than any Ghengis Khan
who conquered new turf and made foreign natures submissive.

She wanted to say, "Hello, honey, could you give me a wet
washcloth" but she did not want to approach him from weakness and so she
said, "YouOve trespassed the agreed boundaries."

"Uh uh!" he negated.  "YouOre down here in the family room, and
down here is mine, isnOt it?  Maybe I should get the cops."  He laughed.
She didnOt say anything.  "Whose car is in the drive?" he asked.

"ItOs your graduation present.  I bought it months ago.  I had them
bring it out today when I had a clear purpose."

"IOm not graduating."

"You are and I am," she said.  "It is time."

"Time for what?"

"Time to leave.  Time to end this state we have found ourselves
in."  Her heart was beating rapidly and she could barely slur the words
from her mouth by imagining them to come from some source outside
herself.  "IOve been waiting.  I wasnOt sure the context of giving it to
you:  a birthday or Christmas gift, a banana waved under your nose to
get you through school, or to facilitate a permanent departure."

"YouOre kicking me out?"


"Where would I go?"

"You just go.  Just as I went to Ithaca.  You just go, deciding
that you will suffer through anything so as to end it with people who
failed you."  Tiring, she stopped and put her hands on her pounding
head.  Then seconds later she continued.  "Anyway you stop thinking
about them.  You will them into non-existence, or as close as you can,
because as cold as it is nothing else works."

"What sort of a person tells her son to leave?"  The reality of
being cut off with no one filled him with dread and his voice had a
whining undertone for he was questioning if the end of family had been
his aim.

"You will them into non-existence," she murmured in a despondent
redundancy, "because to even take in one nice enough memory would bring
in a stampede of others to trample over you leaving you nothing but
bitter in those memories, never able to reestablish yourself anew.  No
need for sentimentality: will a permanent end. Resurrecting yourself
anew is only possible with the gates closed."  She was remembering that
day she arrived in the airport visibly pregnant and intent to move to
the East Coast to begin family anew.  They inveighed the Rice University
graduate school graduate with their artillery of words: whore, loser,
[bastardess] whom they had taken in, and not in [her] right mind.   She
had been matched to an old doctor named Jerry, hand-Picked by Peggy.
Marriage to him and living the remainder of the myriad days of her life
in Emporia, Kansas would have been the payment for her indulgence in
being allowed to study abroad in that quasi-nation of Texas.  Merging
the more affluent family to hers had been the price for Rice that Peggy
had put on her head. Standing there unwed and pregnant, the bulging
belly an ignominy, they saw her as ungrateful for their charity in
taking her in. They believed that her education had gone to her head,
and that she was so unlike that little girl they trained to be a
housekeeperNthe one who did her perfunctory duties even if her eyes were
hard and cold toward those who tried to finger her.  Without words those
eyes had demanded all these males to get their fingers out of her and
put them into their own rectums but back then she had done it in
wordless etiquette as a respectful family member.  But as a graduate she
was releasing her latent honest thoughts in contemptuous words.  She was
as a madwoman rebelling against that designated role as a lesser family
member by a pregnancy and a declaration to leave them forever.

"Making oneself anew.  It can be done if the gates are shut
completely and the herds of memories are kept at bay. Then there is no
bitterness to poison the present.  But be forewarned that if one creates
family of his own the new self and the new life might go awry.  Then he
or she needs to fulfill the expectations of the new family, needs to
sacrifices himself for their sake, perhaps is in a detestable job, and
needs to raise children with only that defunct model of a bad parent as
the example of being a parent for oneself."  She saw his smirking and it
aggravated her.  "DonOt be so amused by what you donOt understand."

"You always say weird shit all the time.  What else can I do but
laugh at it?  You arenOt really kicking me out are you?"  He asked this
but she did not say anything.  "Are you in a lot of pain?"

"Some," she said.  "My medicine is in the kitchen.  Could you bring
it to me, and could you bring back a cold washcloth too?"

"You are kicking me out of the house and yet I should help you."

"You donOt have to."

"Have to help you or have to leave?"

Either one was at her lips but she could not release that wisp of
air and her bottom lip began to tremble.  She suddenly realized that she
was not watching someone else say these things that she thought should
not have been said and not say things that should have been said.  "Help
me. You donOt have to, but you do have to leave"

"No," he whined as tears weltered in the confines of his confused
eyes.  "You can pain me but I wouldnOt want to pain you."  He said this
in such dulcet ingenuousness.  He was like that child he once was-- the
child who had taken an empty tray of a TV dinner, filled it with water,
and picked wild flowers to bring to his beloved mother.

Going into the kitchen he tried to think, as he looked for the
pills, what words he might enchant to propitiate her, his sustenance;
but his howling dog, chained up near the swimming pool, kept destroying
his concentration so he went to the deck to silence it.

"Bitch," he yelled as he looked down from the balustrade, "shut
your fucking snout!"  The dog continued to howl and so he repeated
himself with a more angered vehemence.  Only after trudging halfway down
the steps did the howling stop.  He bent down over the railing and
looked at the dog again.  His eyes dropped into the dogOs like stones
and the animal began to whimper. He glanced up at the darkening clouds,
sighed, and sensed that he and the dog were the same; and then a
visceral malaise about the futility of all things began to permeate all
his thoughts and his vitriol mitigated.  "Upset that she brought in the
cat instead of you?  IOm sure you are but youOre thrown your bones and
are nicely kept here ignored and forgotten.  WhatOs wrong with that?
YouOre back home after two weeks in the kennel.  It seems you should be
happy with that."

He sat down on one of the lower steps, whittling away an edge near
his feet with his pocketknife.  At first he hoped to see answers in his
current dilemma, but then deciding that there were none unless that
gained by time and obscurity he thought, "Maybe she wonOt think like
this in a few days.  IOll keep out of sight and ride it outNnot look too
anxious for the car.  See how it goes.  ThatOs the best thing to do."

He spoke to the dog.  "Get back.  Such stinking breath, bitch."
The dog backed away a few steps.  "So, you were in a cage at the kennel.
She knew that IOd never take care of you when she made that trip to
Thailand to buy paintings for this so called gallery of hers--just a
partitioned backroom, more like a closet, that caused her to rename the
store into OThe Gallery.O  Me, the arsonist, was in my own little
kennelNa cheap hotel room. But then yours was a little worse wasnOt it?
You did not get any money deposited into your bank account from which to
buy booze and a bitch.  I never need a whoreNjust a willing patron, but
you have to take them to expensive restaurants and treat them like they
are the center of the universe, be soft to them.  Takes up a lot of
time, so IOm always tempted to get more professional whores that you can
buy outright but sometimes they are too expensive.  Not that I havenOt
had some.  If you pawned off something of hers, all things are

Whittling the wood was more than merely the whittling of the
minutes of life but a wistful hope that time itself would carve a
purpose to his days that no patriarch had done.  Expressed in the
subliminal connotations of gestures defacing property it was hope
hopelessly rendered as boyhood tagged him and ran off leaving the stark